The many (alleged) lives of Microsoft's Office for iOS

Posted:
in iPad edited March 2014
An iOS adaptation of Microsoft's ubiquitous Office productivity suite is ready to go pending the approval of new CEO Satya Nadella, according to a recent report, but we've heard this story before.

Nadella
Satya Nadella. | Source: Microsoft


The Redmond, Wash. software giant "already has a full iPhone and iPad version of Office ready for release," Gerry Shih and Bill Rigby reported for Reuters late Thursday. "The only question is when Chief Executive Satya Nadella, who took over in February, will pull the trigger."

If true, it would mark the end of a long and winding road that saw Microsoft caught flat-footed by the explosive enterprise adoption of Apple's iPad in the years following the tablet's release. If false, it would simply be the latest setback for many business users' seemingly quixotic desire to use one of the world's most popular software packages on one of the world's most popular devices.
Apple brought iWork to iOS in 2011 as Office remained a no-show.
The first reports of a project to bring Office to the iPad surfaced in November 2011, nearly two years after Steve Jobs unveiled the slate in San Francisco. At the time, now-defunct iPad newspaper The Daily said that Microsoft was "actively working on adapting its popular software suite for Apple's tablet" alongside an updated version of Office for Mac that itself never materialized.

Three months later, the same publication returned with a hands-on preview of Office for iPad sporting a Windows 8-style "Metro" user interface. Though admitting that what they had seen was a "working prototype," The Daily nonetheless predicted that the software "could be released in the coming weeks."

Microsoft immediately denied that report, issuing a statement insisting that the story was "based on inaccurate rumors and speculation."

Office
A photo of the "working prototype" handled by The Daily.


Undeterred, The Daily reiterated its stance in May of 2012 with a report that the software was in the final stages of testing and its emergence on the App Store was only a matter of time.

"The app is now in the hands of a usability team that appraises software that utilizes the Metro design language for 'Metro compliance' and suggests changes as needed," reporter Matt Hickey wrote at the time. "When approved by the team, the app likely will go to Apple for app store approval, which could take a couple of weeks."

Boldly, this report included a specific release date: Nov. 10, 2012.

The software suffered another vaporous delay in October of that year courtesy of Microsoft's Czech Republic team. Product manager Petr Bobek said the suite would go mobile sometime after March 2013, and a followup press release confirmed that in "addition to Windows, Office will also be available on other operating systems: Windows Phone, Windows RT, Mac OS, Android, iOS and Symbian."

Redmond again backpedaled, this time saying that the "information shared by our Czech subsidiary is not accurate." Microsoft did eventually release its Office Mobile app in June of 2013, though the iPhone-only offering is a far cry from satisfying the needs of most business users.

Office Mobile


Office Mobile operates as a companion for Microsoft's Office 365 subscription service, and the app's limited and often confusing functionality has earned it a meager 2.5-star rating on the App Store. AppleInsider's own iOS productivity showdown concluded that the app seems "to exist solely to quell the heartburn brought on corporate IT departments by anxious executives who use iOS devices but need a way to make simple changes to documents on the fly."
Business users were unsatisfied with the iPhone-only Office Mobile app
October 2013 -- nearly two years after the suite was first seen in "working prototype" mode -- brought a tepid announcement from then-Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, who indicated that development on Office for iOS was "in progress." Ballmer did not allude to a release date, only saying that it would not be submitted to Apple until the company finished a new "touch first" user interface overhaul.

Given the resources Microsoft has dedicated to touch interfaces in the past four years -- and the appearance of the Metro-enabled prototype -- Ballmer's latter statement seemed to be at best an attempt to retroactively rationalize the fact that Office has yet to appear on one of the most dominant computing platforms of the 21st century and at worst a tacit admission of systemic failures in Microsoft's product development pipeline.

Most recently, Microsoft insider Mary Jo Foley reported that Office was set to roll out in the first half of 2014, even before the suite makes its way to Microsoft's own Windows 8 platform. That development would be a slap in the face to Microsoft watchers who have repeatedly predicted the company was holding back Office for iPad until a corresponding Windows 8 version was ready in an effort to keep the nascent Windows tablet ecosystem on level footing in the enterprise.



It may be true that an iPad running Office would be the final nail in Microsoft's enterprise tablet coffin, a strategic blunder not unlike that of the Incan emperor who allowed Pizarro to conquer the formerly powerful empire from within. But Surface has been a flop, and corporate IT departments staring through the rimless glasses of their iPad-toting CEO won't wait forever.

Microsoft might also be too proud to let Apple have a slice of the goose that lays one of Microsoft's many golden eggs. Office generates tens of billions of dollars in revenue every year, not including the Windows licenses needed to run all those copies of Word, Excel, and PowerPoint.

Most likely, though, is that today -- four years on -- Microsoft still lacks a coherent strategy for dealing with Apple's unprecedented move onto their turf. Fractured and disorganized after years of corporate infighting, Microsoft's response to the iPhone and iPad under Ballmer was reminiscent of Sonny Liston laboring against the ropes, holding on amidst a flurry of punches from Muhammad Ali.

We don't yet know whether Nadella can get the aging heavyweight back into fighting shape, nor do we know how he will choose to handle the iPad problem.

The only thing we do know is that Office for iPad won't be rushed.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 62
    nikiloknikilok Posts: 383member
    I don't think corporate is really looking out for office for iPad. They could create there docs in pages and have it converted to PDF before sending it off to anyone. As for the consumers they definetly don't need office for iPad. Why spend on licensing office when iWork's is free.
  • Reply 2 of 62
    rob53rob53 Posts: 3,257member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by nikilok View Post



    I don't think corporate is really looking out for office for iPad. They could create there docs in pages and have it converted to PDF before sending it off to anyone. As for the consumers they definetly don't need office for iPad. Why spend on licensing office when iWork's is free.

    You can export your Pages documents to Word if necessary and usually read a Word document in Pages but Word will never be able to read a Pages formatted document. Enterprise installations will always use what the entrenched IT manager demands people use so until these people finally retire or Microsoft implodes, Microsoft Office will unfortunately continue to be used. The good thing is I retired so I don't have to deal with that mess and gladly use Apple's products because they do everything I need to do. I will not be buying another version of Office, ever.

     

    (I have a corporate home version bought for $10-$20 when I was working under a proper license but I believe I am now supposed to delete it because I no longer work for the company it was purchased under. Oh well, no loss to me.)

  • Reply 3 of 62
    canukstormcanukstorm Posts: 2,719member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by nikilok View Post



    I don't think corporate is really looking out for office for iPad. They could create there docs in pages and have it converted to PDF before sending it off to anyone. As for the consumers they definetly don't need office for iPad. Why spend on licensing office when iWork's is free.

    If you're a serious spreadsheet user, there's nothing that comes close to MS Excel.  Numbers doesn't hold a candle to it.  But there are many apps that are becoming suitable replacements for MS Word & PowerPoint.

  • Reply 4 of 62
    macbook promacbook pro Posts: 1,605member
    I am extremely disappointed in AppleInsider and Shane Cole for having completely missed the real story. Microsoft has a usability team? What do both of them do the other 39 hours of their week? I would like to see an expose about the usability team at Microsoft.
  • Reply 5 of 62
    Microsoft is leaving money on the table not releasing Office for iPad.
  • Reply 6 of 62
    emoelleremoeller Posts: 577member
    I agree with canukstorm - serious spreadsheet users will only use Excel. Visicalc drove the PC industry (I'm actually convinced it wouldn't have been nearly as successful if the spreadsheet hadn't been invented). Apple needs to up its game with Numbers. To do so it should look to include macros/programing (a sorely needed update/improvement to Applescript as a viable alternative to Visual Basic for example) and improve its data analytics (wishing Tableau worked on a Mac). The later could be done in conjunction with Filemaker (version 13, just out, is a big improvement, but still lacks big data analytics and visualization).

    A non-linear presentation method (like Prezi) would be helpful for both Numbers and Keynote.

    As much as I've tried to embrace iWork, it still isn't ready for heavy duty productivity. Microsoft Office will remain the corporate workhorse, along with the army of add on's and Windows only complimentary productivity software for some time to come.
  • Reply 7 of 62
    adamcadamc Posts: 583member
    emoeller wrote: »
    I agree with canukstorm - serious spreadsheet users will only use Excel. Visicalc drove the PC industry (I'm actually convinced it wouldn't have been nearly as successful if the spreadsheet hadn't been invented). Apple needs to up its game with Numbers. To do so it should look to include macros/programing (a sorely needed update/improvement to Applescript as a viable alternative to Visual Basic for example) and improve its data analytics (wishing Tableau worked on a Mac). The later could be done in conjunction with Filemaker (version 13, just out, is a big improvement, but still lacks big data analytics and visualization).

    A non-linear presentation method (like Prezi) would be helpful for both Numbers and Keynote.

    As much as I've tried to embrace iWork, it still isn't ready for heavy duty productivity. Microsoft Office will remain the corporate workhorse, along with the army of add on's and Windows only complimentary productivity software for some time to come.


    The question is how many are using this workhorse called excel.

    The next question is is excel suitable for the tablet.
  • Reply 8 of 62
    canukstormcanukstorm Posts: 2,719member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by AdamC View Post





    The question is how many are using this workhorse called excel.



    The next question is is excel suitable for the tablet.

    Excel is used big time in the business world.  Every other spreadsheet is amateur hour compared to it.  If Numbers can be made suitable for a tablet, why not Excel?  Granted it won't be fully functional like its desktop counterpart but it doesn't have to, in the same manner that iWork for iOS is not as feature rich compared to iWork for OSX.  The key is document / file format compatibility.

  • Reply 9 of 62
    macbook promacbook pro Posts: 1,605member
    canukstorm wrote: »
    Excel is used big time in the business world.  Every other spreadsheet is amateur hour compared to it.  If Numbers can be made suitable for a tablet, why not Excel?  Granted it won't be fully functional like its desktop counterpart but it doesn't have to, in the same manner that iWork for iOS is not as feature rich compared to iWork for OSX.  The key is document / file format compatibility.

    iWork for iOS has exactly the same functionality as iWork for OS X.

    The vast majority of users do not use Visual Basic for Applications.
  • Reply 10 of 62
    gtrgtr Posts: 3,231member

    This on the iPad:

     

     

    I just can't wait...

  • Reply 11 of 62
    asciiascii Posts: 5,936member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by GTR View Post

     

    This on the iPad:

     

     

    I just can't wait...


    Better get used to tapping with your pinky.

  • Reply 12 of 62
    asciiascii Posts: 5,936member

    I think the Office monopoly was doomed the moment they opened up the file format (the XML based one). Now they have to compete on app features, and not having a version for a particular platform is about an uncompetitive as you can get.

  • Reply 13 of 62
    foadfoad Posts: 717member

    Microsoft will probably tie this to Office 365 and it would make sense. While I hate Office for personal use because it's just so bloated, it is still heavily used in enterprise. It would be a big boon to get it on iOS because it would further legitimize the platform.

     

    To those that talk about Pages being able to export to Word, that is just a series of extra steps. The use case that makes most sense is to open Word on your iOS device, it pulls your document list from something like Sharepoint or OneDrive for Business, you open the document, make changes, save. That is the workflow that is expected.

     

    iWork isn't set up or suited for multi-user, multi-platform use and I don't think Apple is heading there either. It would take an insane amount of work with no realistic expectation to even get close to the entrenchment that Office has.

     

    Office on iOS would be a good thing.

  • Reply 14 of 62
    foadfoad Posts: 717member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by ascii View Post

     

    I think the Office monopoly was doomed the moment they opened up the file format (the XML based one). Now they have to compete on app features, and not having a version for a particular platform is about an uncompetitive as you can get.


     

    It still has a relative monopoly. There are less smaller organizations that depend on it, but at large enterprises of thousands of users, no one is even close.

     

    BTW - I'm not defending it. Just pointing out something that I have seen in large companies.

  • Reply 15 of 62
    gtrgtr Posts: 3,231member
    ascii wrote: »
    Better get used to tapping with your pinky.

    Or my boomstick!

    ;)
  • Reply 16 of 62
    This is news? Seriously, thinking about the newest version of Office would be like me going to the Circuit City to get my new VHS player. Who gives a sh!t? And if you do for your biz or anything else, tough, that's your fault for depending on these idiots that would rather sell 20 Surface tablets than 1,000,000+ version of their bloat-ware for iOS.

    [IMG]http://forums.appleinsider.com/content/type/61/id/39808/width/200/height/400[/IMG]
  • Reply 17 of 62
    foadfoad Posts: 717member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by Dick LeSwunder View Post



    This is news? Seriously, thinking about the newest version of Office would be like me going to the Circuit City to get my new VHS player. Who gives a sh!t? And if you do for your biz or anything else, tough, that's your fault for depending on these idiots that would rather sell 20 Surface tablets than 1,000,000+ version of their bloat-ware for iOS.

     

    It's not about SBA owners who have easier choices to make. It's about enterprise customers and this would be good for iOS as a platform as it would further engrain iOS in the enterprise market. That is something that Android still can't get into as much as some would think.

  • Reply 18 of 62
    This is news? Seriously, thinking about the newest version of Office would be like me going to the Circuit City to get my new Vhs player. Who gives a sh!t? And if you do, tough, t
    foad wrote: »
    It's not about SBA owners who have easier choices to make. It's about enterprise customers and this would be good for iOS as a platform as it would further engrain iOS in the enterprise market. That is something that Android still can't get into as much as some would think.

    You make a great point. And it just shows that Microsoft dosen't care about the professionals the same way that even (some) Apple faithful were saying about Apple even after the new Mac Pro was finally realesed with a stock 4 core computer that completes (some) tasks 70% faster than it's base model predecessor. Even with new regime MS is caught in the 90's dangling a carrot in front of Mac users. Microsoft should make their own version of a Parallels-type software bundled with Office. They'd do something they don't really seem to care about - sell a bunch of one of their products (beside XBox).
  • Reply 19 of 62
    adonissmuadonissmu Posts: 1,776member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by MacBook Pro View Post





    iWork for iOS has exactly the same functionality as iWork for OS X.



    The vast majority of users do not use Visual Basic for Applications.

    Apple could allow people to use javascript in their numbers...

  • Reply 20 of 62
    adonissmuadonissmu Posts: 1,776member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by foad View Post

     

     

    It still has a relative monopoly. There are less smaller organizations that depend on it, but at large enterprises of thousands of users, no one is even close.

     

    BTW - I'm not defending it. Just pointing out something that I have seen in large companies.


    Now those companies are using Google docs because its accessible everywhere. MSFT needs to stop trying to be a hardware company and be a software company. Google couldn't have been eating MSFT's lunch without servicing whatever major platforms it has to in order to do business. MSFT has a cash cow. MSFT should make that goose lay golden eggs wherever it can. If MSFT waits too long they won't get a chance because users will find work arounds and competitors will keep adding features. 

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