Microsoft Office on iPad: Yes, We Know Business


The announcement that Microsoft Office is officially coming to the Apple iPad should be taken with a grain of salt. But the fact you can get free Word, Excel, and PowerPoint straight from the App store -- as well as for the iPhone and Android phones for free -- should be viewed with some consternation by Google and Apple. Nothing says business like Microsoft.

In the real non-Apple-fanboy world, people have devices running multiple operating systems. I have an Apple iPad, a Samsung Android phone, and a desktop running Windows 7. I'm willing to bet I'm not alone, either as a typical SMB guy or as a corporate enterprise IT shop. Microsoft rules the desktop, despite years of Apple fumbling and Google's painful efforts to convert everyone over to the cloud and convince them that a broadband-dependent Chromebook is really something as useful as a laptop that can continue to do useful work without WiFi or a desktop PC with a 20 inch widescreen display.

By releasing Office for the iPad, Microsoft recognizes, yes,  businesses of all shapes and sizes have purchased the device. And by offering it for free, it matches Google Docs and Apple's iWorks "free" productivity apps and raises them with full-blown Office look and feel with a much richer set of applications.

I have mixed feelings about the whole "subscribe for Office 365" in order to get full functionality to create and edit documents. Microsoft provides a hook and incentive for people to go to its cloud and pick up always-loved recurring revenue through Office 365 subscriptions. Recurring revenue is the big thing these days and much easier to squeeze out of individuals and businesses than the whopping stand-alone license fees for Office on Windows.

Still, for anyone or any business running a heavily mixed-mode environment of Android, Apple iThings, and Windows devices, Office will probably pick up both market share and Office 365 subscriptions. It may cut into high-priced Surface and other Windows tablet sales, but Wall Street analysts will like steady recurring revenue over hit-and-run spikes with hardware sales.

Apple is in the hot seat on this one. The company has been building an enterprise sales force, but Microsoft's link of Office on iPad to its cloud ecosystem means that those customers -- and potential recurring revenue -- end up in Microsoft's pocket. In the business market, this puts the iPad back into the one-time hardware sale and that can't make Apple feel easy.

Maybe both Apple and Microsoft are comfortable splitting the difference in the enterprise world for now, but I don't see that lasting for long. Microsoft still has the advantage in the enterprise and is more than willing to take the long view to keep it.

Edited by Cassandra Tucker

Contributing Editor

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