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23/03/2012

Microsoft Office for iPad is all about enterprise

By Seth Weintraub.

It appears Microsoft may finally unveil an iPad version of its bread and butter Office productivity suite. More interestingly, the launch seems timed with a possible on stage presentation at the iPad 3 event in a few weeks.

Remember when Roz Ho, former head of the MS Mac Business Unit, was a staple at Apple events? Me neither.

However, the question comes up: Why would Apple, who has pushed the iWork apps for iPad since day one, want to give Microsoft a stage to showcase its competition? Moreover, why would Microsoft, who is readying its own Windows 8 tablets, want to empower Apple’s iPad with Office, thereby making its own Tablets less valuable when they hit the market …later? Read on…

Apple makes money selling hardware; Microsoft makes money selling software.

This is a truth for over three decades, but is easy to forget. Looking at Apple’s revenues and earnings, Apple makes what amounts to rounding errors on its software products when compared to hardware sales. With that said, Apple makes awesome software to sell its hardware. If Microsoft makes Office for iPad then it throws the doors wide open in Enterprise for iPad that saw a great deal more success than Macintosh ever did.

For Microsoft, the motivation is getting its tablet software in front of as many eyes as it can before competitors get there first. Microsoft’s Windows 8 tablets are not going to make a big splash (if at all) until a year from now. Believe it or not, a well-executed Office for tablet experience could cause a “halo” when it is time for Enterprises to buy Windows Tablets.

In addition, I will bet Microsoft charges a significant amount more than $9.99 an app. Remember, Microsoft sells software for big markets. This is how it makes big money, and there are now many iPads in the enterprise waiting for an Office suite that hooks into the back-end.

Also, do not forget Microsoft always cripples its Apple software just enough to make it noticeably inferior to the Windows versions. How many years did Microsoft Entourage lack true Exchange capabilities for instance? When was Word finally able to connect to SharePoint? Microsoft still views Apple’s products as mere toys in the business world. I expect the same thing on iOS.

Microsoft can afford to make inferior products for Apple, because Apple does not care about Enterprise Software. It just is not in the company’s DNA. Do you think iCloud for Enterprise is coming soon? Corporate IT departments do not think Pages, Numbers and Keynote are suitable Office replacements—especially in an age where everything hooks together with Microsoft’s backend suite of SharePoint, Exchange, etc. Apple might want to connect Mail to Exchange with some contacts and calendaring, but there is very little chance of iWork connecting to Microsoft’s BackOffice suite.

There is one other major factor:

Google

Yes, the enemy of my enemy works in both cases here. Apple, after letting Android slip past it in phone sales, does not want to let the same thing happen in tablets (even though its current lead would seem insurmountable). Doing everything possible to get iPad entrenched in the enterprise before Google is a huge priority. Yesterday, Google released a collaborative Google Apps app for Android that could be its first real Office competitor.

Google would love to see its Android tablets make a way into the enterprise, and Google has a bit of leverage with vendors like ASUS, Samsung, Acer and Motorola by already having big business contracts.

Microsoft, who watched Google’s Enterprise Apps eat away at its core business for years, needs to have a tablet Office competitor now—not in a year when Windows 8 starts shipping in quantity.

Is Office for iPad happening? It feels likely at this point, and it makes a lot of sense more importantly.

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