Why did Microsoft port Office to Apple's iOS iPad before Android?

Posted:
in iPad edited May 2014
Earlier this month, Gartner reported worldwide tablet sales for 2013 that depicted Apple's iPad as slipping into obscurity with just 36 percent market share left. Why would Microsoft target Apple's minority tablet platform with its new mobile Office apps over Google's Android, which supposedly owns a 61.9 percent marketshare?

http://www.gartner.com/newsroom/id/2674215

Gartner's tablet numbers

Gartner takes its data very seriously, describing its research as "the most comprehensive collection of analysis and advice for the users and vendors of technology."

While the firm also notes that "Gartner insights are drawn from a critical fact base not available anywhere else," the conclusions it generates about the direction of the global tablet industry largely line up with the opinions of other market research firms including IDC and Strategy Analytics, even if the actual tablet market numbers presented by each company may differ by as much as 9.8 million units within a single quarter.

The only sales numbers that market research firms seem to consistently agree upon are iPad shipments, because Apple is the only company that reports how many tablets it actually sold.

At the same time, all of the market research firms seem to be in agreement, at least in their publicly released reports, that Apple's share of the market is rapidly dropping, a trend they began predicting would occur as soon as iPad competitors began to materialize. So how does it make any sense that Microsoft is focusing attention on an ostensibly withering platform, when there is the booming Android tablet business to profit from?

If Android took 61.9% of tablets & iPad only 36%, why did $MSFT bring Office to $AAPL iPad first? @Gartner_inc $GOOG http://t.co/umhItboMSS

-- Daniel Eran Dilger (@DanielEran)

Microsoft privy to non-public market share data

Microsoft was no doubt aware of public reports throughout 2013 that predicted Apple's share of tablet sales would continue to shrivel up into obscurity. Why would it target the release of Office for iPad in early 2014, a full year after this data was generated? In part, it appears that, as a client of these market research firms, Microsoft has access to more of their data than those firms make publicly available.

Market researchers are not always coy in supplying context for the numbers they tabulate. In a conversation with AppleInsider last fall, IDC analyst Ryan Reith noted that his company engaged in research during 2013 that turned up a "significant surge in low end devices," which he described as "tier two" class tablets, ones that feature processors as slow as 600 MHz and include devices that Reith offhandedly described as "kids tablets or toys."

These sort of "tablets" make up an incredible two thirds of the global tablet numbers reported by market research firms, clarifying that it's the recent recognition of these devices as "tablets" that has affected Apple's iPad "market share," not competition from tablet makers like Samsung and Microsoft, both of whom continue to struggle far behind Apple in their tablet sales.

In addition to not being fooled by public market research firms' data insisting that iPad sales are tumbling off a cliff, Microsoft is also well aware of its own anemic Surface sales and the competitive pressure being exerted by Apple's iPad sales against its partner's Tablet PCs and PCs in general. Microsoft knows what hardware its current and potential customers are using.

Microsoft reverses gears on its anti-iPad campaign

Microsoft's new chief executive Satya Nadella, speaking at this week's event where the company unveiled its new Office apps for iPad, stressed that his company isn't worried about optics of supporting Apple's competing iOS platform, and is instead seeking to make its software products and cloud services available on the mobile devices that its customers are actually using.

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella


This appears to be a dramatic shift for Microsoft. In the late 1980s, Bill Gates was famously said to have told Steve Jobs that Microsoft would never develop its software for the NeXT Computer (the precursor of today's Mac OS X) phrasing his position as, "Develop for it? I'll piss on it."

A decade later, Jobs had to threaten Gates with a multibillion dollar patent infringement case in order to get Microsoft to agree to update its port Office to the Macintosh, a deal that resulted in an incredibly terrible version of Office for Macintosh figuratively dripping in contempt for Apple, Jobs and Macintosh customers.

More recently, Microsoft's last chief executive Steve Ballmer was rumored to have postponed the deployment of native iPad Office apps that were ostensibly ready to release back in 2012, in order to avoid stealing the thunder of the Surface RT and Pro tablets that Microsoft had been fruitlessly seeking to sell in late 2012 and through 2013.

In fact, a primary element of Microsoft's $1 billion 2012 ad campaign for Windows 8 and Surface involved denigrating Apple's iPad as being a "toy" and unfit for business tasks.

Only a monumental failure of the Surface and the greater ecosystem of Tablet PCs could force Microsoft to humbly eat up $1 billion worth of its advertising words and return to the market with Office apps designed to make Apple's iPad a key element of its non-toy, ready for business initiative intended to keep Office relevant in the Post PC world.

That has happened. Most of the billboards erected to portray the Surface as uniquely able to run the "real" Office are now gone, including the notorious ads that depicted a Surface failing to correctly add up five numbers in the "real" (albeit non-touch oriented) Excel.

Microsoft has also stopped mocking Apple's Siri for not being able to launch Powerpoint on iPad, because it now can.



Even the company's October ads for touch-based PCs running Window 8.1, carrying the tagline "honestly, it works for work," are fading away.

Frank Shaw's imitation of imitation apps

Just five months ago, that ad campaign was kicked off by Microsoft's Corporate Vice President of Communications Frank Shaw, who took to a blog posting to ridicule the iPad as being an "entertainment device" while denigrating Apple's Pages, Numbers and Keynote mobile apps as "struggling, lightweight productivity apps" that he dismissed as "watered down" and "imitation apps."

This week, Shaw helped kick off the event that introduced Microsoft's Office apps for iPad. But notably, rather than outlining a series of breakout features that clearly differentiated the new Office apps from Apple's iWork, the company largely repeated Phil Schiller's demonstration of the original iWork apps released alongside the first iPad in 2010, an astounding four years earlier.

Rather than focusing attention on, say, OneDrive as a competitor to iCloud or detailing some advantages of Microsoft's Ribbon-style interface over Apple's user interface for iWork apps, Microsoft's Julia White principally highlighted Word's ability to dynamically wrap text around graphics as the user moved the object via touch (just like Pages); Excel's presentation of a custom numeric keyboard when editing spreadsheet data (just like Numbers) and Powerpoint's animated transitions and direct manipulation of slide order (just like Keynote).

Office iPad 2014


If you watch Steve Jobs' entire 2010 iPad keynote, Schiller outlined a lot of other features of iWork, the first touch-centric productivity suite, back in 2010; more than Microsoft demonstrated in 2014, four years and over 200 million iPads later.

White bizarrely didn't highlight much else in the new Office apps for iPad, even though there are some noteworthy and significant original features in the three new apps.

If that weren't embarrassing enough for the "real Office" that Microsoft has had simmering for iPad for over a year now, there's also Microsoft's omission of support for AirPrint, or any ability to print from Office on iPad at all, outside of mailing yourself the documents and printing them directly from Pages, Numbers or Keynote.

Microsoft says it will quickly work to address users' needs in rapid updates of the new Office suite for iPad, another line borrowed from Apple, which has finally gotten serious about releasing frequent, serious updates to iWork. But Microsoft will be selling its product in competition with Apple's iWork, which is now free, on Apple's App Store (which is not free for Microsoft).

Why not tackle the lower hanging fruit in Android land?

After more than a year of bashing Apple's iPad, it might seem more sensible for Microsoft to first offer to support a different competing platform with its touch-centric Office apps: Google's Android, a platform with a noteworthy lack of sophisticated, touch oriented, tablet optimized productivity software. Android is practically begging for Office.

Given the market share numbers from Gartner, IDC and Strategy Analytics, this would also seem to be more sensible commercially, were we still pretending that those market share numbers weren't completely preposterous nonsense that is completely irrelevant to the enterprise, government and education markets where Apple's iPad completely dominates with overwhelming market share.

As it stands, while Microsoft and Google remain bitter rivals engaged in lawsuits at least as ugly as those between Apple and Samsung, Microsoft continues to earn most of its licensing revenue from patent royalties paid by Android licensees, if for no other reason that the company's own Windows Phone and Tablet PC aren't generating any real licensing revenue at all.

There are some significant problems with Android tablets however. First of all, there's IDC data showing that the vast majority of Android tablets are "tier two" devices that minimally function as "kid's toys" or video players. That's not where the money is.



There's also Android's software fragmentation, which makes it much harder to develop apps of any kind when compared to Apple's iOS platform, where the majority of devices sold over the past three years all run the same, up to date version of the operating system, presenting the same development API version capable of supporting the latest features.

Android development tools are inferior

Development tools under Android are also weaker and harder to use. A recent article by Jon Evans of TechCrunch described Apple's Xcode as "a joy to work with," featuring a "debugger [that] works seamlessly, and the simulator is fast and responsive." In contrast, Evans wrote that Android's Eclipse IDE "is embarrassingly bad. Slow, clunky, counterintuitive when not outright baffling, poorly laid out, needlessly complex, it's just a mess."

Evans called Apple's Interface Builder "a very sleek way to put simple good-looking user interfaces together quickly," while noting only that "while Android theoretically has a comparable visual tool, the less said about it the better."

"Android has its advantages," Evans concluded, "but overall, it remains significantly easier to write good iOS apps than good Android apps."

Android's business model problems for developers

Those issues all help to explain why Android has so few tablet optimized apps of any kind. But even the apps that are available are not seeing sales comparable to Apple's App Store. Additionally, the primary business model for supporting Android apps is advertising, in large measure because that's Google's primary business model behind Android itself.

Imagine an ad supported version of Office running on Android.

Office for Android with ads


Additionally, Android tablet makers are focused on selling low priced devices that customers can be enticed to buy. Samsung established that was necessary in its initial attempt to sell iPad clones at similar price points, an effort that was not successful at all.

Google's other partners' attempts to sell Android Honeycomb 3.0 tablets priced at or higher than iPads also failed disastrously, helping to focusing Google's Nexus co-branded tablets and other Android-based initiatives at the very low end of the market.

That's the same strategy that the Commodore 64 used to claim greater market share than the Apple II back in the early days of computing, but it did not result in a viable market for selling C64 software. On the other hand, Apple was able to make lots of money selling AppleWorks to its own customers in the early 1980s, creating a market that attracted Microsoft's attention.

Apple's relatively pricey Macintosh continued to retain disproportionally high interest from third party developers, including Microsoft, for many years after Apple's PC market share dropped down into the single digits in the early 1990s.

Apple's premium hardware model is selling software

It wasn't just unit market share that sold software titles then or now. It's always been premium customers who were willing to pay more for hardware who were also the most valuable software customers. Even five years ago, if you'd said Apple was going to stuff Microsoft Windows back into Pandora's Box and return the tech world to a time where there was real competition in hardware and third party developers like Microsoft had to compete in a software meritocracy for sales, you'd be laughed at.

What we are witnessing today is a radical shift in the computing landscape that nobody predicted, nor could even fathom occurring if you traveled back in time and told them.

Even five years ago, if you'd said Apple was going to stuff Microsoft Windows back into Pandora's Box and return the tech world to a time where there was real competition in hardware and third party developers like Microsoft had to compete in a software meritocracy for sales, you'd be laughed at.

The idea that a software monoculture platform like Windows or Android is the only way to have competition is actually backwards; Microsoft proved beyond any doubt over the past twenty years that with a broadly licensed platform, it could keep software prices sky high and effectively kill any and all competition before it could even sprout.

Microsoft Office remained a $500 suite right up until Apple released iWork and a variety of web-oriented productivity suites like Google Docs appeared. That took nearly a decade. With competition restored, it will be very hard for Microsoft to jack the price of software back up into the stratosphere.

Apple's premium hardware model is promoting real competition

Today, even many Apple fans secretly fear that Apple's increasingly powerful market position needs competition to prevent abuse. But Apple has never been without competition. And only since the rise of OS X and iOS has effective competition been restored. Prices of everyday computing hardware have plummeted even as new mobile form factors and new types of software and services have sprung up.

Apple currently commands a premium in smartphone sales and its tablets are priced higher than competitors, but only because nobody else can sell their own high end products at any price. However, Apple's business model of selling premium hardware means that competitors can germinate under that price umbrella and exert competitive pressure.

Under the Microsoft (or Android) model, hardware prices are driven down so cheap that everyone loses, especially those who are willing to pay more for better gear. The result is a commodity market where all you can buy is junk, and any efforts to compete with better products are undermined by price dumping that effectively destroys innovation.

App Store


On the software side, Apple's App Store is a dynamic market of highly competitive software offerings, something that has never previously existed. The very notion of a $500 Microsoft Office or Adobe Creative Suite doesn't even compute for the majority of the population anymore. Today, quality mainstream apps are commonly less than $10. Most of Apple's leading apps are now free. Really, the market has spoken, and there appears to be no turning back

Market research companies are largely still stuck in the mindset of the 1990s, where cheap, low end PC hardware running $500 software suites (that are widely pirated) makes more sense in their minds than high quality hardware with an affordable, broad selection of quality apps that compete for attention.

Apple's unique, premium hardware business model has transformed media players, smartphones, dedicated video games, tablets and desktop computers. There are as many reasons to think that it will also transform other markets, from TV to home automation to wearables.

Really, the market has spoken, and there appears to be no turning back. Microsoft will now need to compete for its revenues, just as Apple will continue to compete for customers' hardware affections. Android, Linux, Windows and Tizen can compete for their share of the cheap hardware market, but none of them look likely to ever lock the world back into a monopoly monoculture, at least under current conditions.

We could fail to learn from the past

The only way a Windows-style monopoly monoculture might return to the tech industry is if the American government repeats the same mistake that initiated the original Windows Dark Ages: decreeing by arbitrary fiat that the intellectual property of one company should be seized and transferred to another one, just as the courts ruled in 1992 that Microsoft should be transferred billions of dollars worth of Apple's property, forcing Apple to compete against its own technology.

While today's courts have flirted with the idea of effectively transferring Apple's intellectual property to South Korea via Samsung or to China via Lenovo's acquisition of Motorola via simple inaction, they haven't gone that far yet. And more importantly, Apple has remained a competitive juggernaut in the market despite the failure of American courts to decisively rule in favor of the enforcement of existing intellectual property laws.

Consumers are currently winning because there are more options, and in turn more intense competition. And that's why Microsoft ported Office to iPad before Android: it was forced to do so in order to remain relevant. Android doesn't have the power or relevance to make anything happen.
«13456712

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 236
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 23,364member
    Why did Microsoft port Office to Apple's iOS iPad before Android? The author himself noted the most likely reason:
    "More recently, Microsoft's last chief executive Steve Ballmer was rumored to have postponed the deployment of native iPad Office apps that were ostensibly [B]ready to release back in 2012,[/B]"
  • Reply 2 of 236
    irelandireland Posts: 17,779member
    We don't need an overly-long article to answer that question. The answer is the iPad is 50X the stronger platform when it comes to tablets.
  • Reply 3 of 236
    dnd0psdnd0ps Posts: 253member
    It's not a weekend without DED.
    brakken
  • Reply 4 of 236
    eideardeideard Posts: 427member
    Porting to Android means deciding which Android to port to. Most Android stk's won't scale from device to device the way iOS does. Back up and look at the whole picture.

    Watched an interview with a pair of developers who have over $200M/yr from their app - just from iOS. Interviewer asked when Android and why not yet. They said there are 800 individual flavors - and even picking the top ten, that meant developing for ten specific platforms with lots of similarities - and differences. What's the return on time invested?

    Just part of the farce of open source. Trying to run in the world of commerce while thinking like a hobbyist is absurd. The first question I ask folks who choose on the basis of open source is "what have you reprogrammed or built to use as your own apps?" For consumers, which is 99.999% of all of us, a solid stk-produced product with ample security is what we need. Not laissez-faire ideology.
    brakken
  • Reply 5 of 236
    Why? Because android still cannot authenticate properly to Microsoft web services. Either on premise or in MS cloud. This is a big issue with corporate users. If active directory integration is a must and single signon is required for your MS OS devices and failover to SSL on non-ms OS is a must android still cannot do that natively. Google seems to have no desire to fix this. This is why we do not support android in our IT environment.
  • Reply 6 of 236
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 23,364member
    eideard wrote: »
    Porting to Android means deciding which Android to port to. Most Android stk's won't scale from device to device the way iOS does. Back up and look at the whole picture.

    Watched an interview with a pair of developers who have over $200M/yr from their app - just from iOS. Interviewer asked when Android and why not yet. They said there are 800 individual flavors - and even picking the top ten, that meant developing for ten specific platforms with lots of similarities - and differences. What's the return on time invested?

    TechCrunch posted an article comparing the development process of an identical app for both iOS and Android. A good factual read particularly for those that only know what little they've heard in forum posts. IMO "fragmentation" is much less of a concern thatn it was even 6 months ago. There's other reasons bigger developers prioritize iOS over Android, not that most ignore Android anyway.
    http://techcrunch.com/2013/11/16/the-state-of-the-art/?ncid=fb
  • Reply 7 of 236
    asciiascii Posts: 5,941member

    Yes, the iPad is the better dev platform, and more likely to be used by serious people. 

     

    But also, strategically, if Nadella is a cloud guy and wants to take Microsoft in that direction, he may view Google as Microsoft's new biggest enemy, since Google is king of the cloud.

  • Reply 8 of 236
    The real story is that Windows RT is dead and Windows 8.X on tablets will have to fight on its merits. There is no reason for Microsoft to not release on Android; in fact, there is a phone version which was simultaneously updated with the iPhone version. We can expect this new Microsoft to be running on Android tablets soon; why not? Microsoft doesn't make any extra money specifically from the iOS apps (since doing so would mean giving Apple big App Store commissions). Microsoft is only selling Office 365 subscriptions, which cover all platforms, so there is no reason to ignore the rest of the tablet market. This is a defensive move to protect the Office franchise after concluding that Office is not enough to drive Windows RT sales. It's not a testatment to the awesomeness of iOS, it's a major strategic decision to release some software which has probably been ready for two years. You know, back when iPads had 80% market share.
  • Reply 9 of 236
    To put it more simply Apple's iPad is where the money is so that's where Microsoft choose to go.
  • Reply 10 of 236
    MacProMacPro Posts: 19,471member
    ascii wrote: »
    Yes, the iPad is the better dev platform, and more likely to be used by serious people. 

    But also, strategically, if Nadella is a cloud guy and wants to take Microsoft in that direction, he may view Google as Microsoft's new biggest enemy, since Google is king of the cloud.

    I think you are right. I was just about to add a post saying that I suspect Google is the main enemy of Microsoft these days not Apple. Add the fact the Ballmer-Gates duopoly seems to have lost some power and so the hate Apple mantra is fading.
  • Reply 11 of 236

    DED, instead of tweeting Gartner asking them why MSFT ported Office to iPad, you should be contacting big media.  You already know why Gartner posts the numbers they do - they're being paid to do so.  It has nothing to do with fact, and everything to do with trying to influence both consumer and financial markets, to the benefit of Gartner's customers (which coincidentally are competitors to Apple).

     

    Of course big media won't publish your editorials because they're not big enough of bomb shells.  Maybe suggesting more strongly that Gartner (et al) are knowingly lying in order to make their clients look better (to the public and financial markets) might get some attention.  

     

    Don't dance around the facts - say it like it is.  Heck, big media publishes outright lies, half truths and false rumors about Apple, so pushing an article that blasts those very organizations that are fueling the lies should make a good story for big media.

  • Reply 12 of 236
    adybadyb Posts: 201member
    "Imagine an ad supported version for Android" - especially as most of them appear to be 'widescreen' - the ribbon would take up much needed vertical space!
  • Reply 13 of 236
    I believe that Microsoft wants to increase revenues, and that will happen at a much faster rate than on the Android platform.
  • Reply 14 of 236
    nhtnht Posts: 4,522member
    A dumber than usual DED article and that's saying something. First of all if apple reduces $500 apps to $0 then it does to software what DED claims Android does to hardware. This doesn't foster competition as much as destroys independent app devs. Second you end up with craptastic apps based on the "freemium" model or software subscriptions that costs users more over time.

    Which what you see now.

    The "$500" office app is free but mostly useless without a $99/year 360 subscription. However if iWork wasn't a free suite perhaps office would be $40 each for $120 for me to use until I wanted to upgrade. Which wouldn't be every year. I still run Office 2008 on my personal mac. Which, if I had paid $100 every year on Jan 1 would have cost me $700 by now.

    Woot.

    While I like that iLife and iWork is now free if Apple did that to every app category it would result in the same monoculture as MS Office is for business. You can't compete with free high quality apps supported by hardware revenue any more than you can compete with cheap hardware sold at virtually no profit.
  • Reply 15 of 236
    appexappex Posts: 687member
    iOS needs USB, a decent file system (like the Mac has, allowing the user to see all files), stop sandboxing applications with files (all files should be available to all applications) and to get out of the jail (which is absolutely unacceptable by all means).

    Having to send to myself a presentation made on the Mac to have it on iOS is a deal breaker. No way! I want freedom and to be in control of the machine, not the other way round. That is why a truly portable (pocketable) Mac is needed for presentations.

    Besides, Apple should support or even make a Bluetooth (low energy) remote control for the iOS devices like the iPad and even the iPod touch and iPhone. That would be awesome for Keynote presentations. Something like this, but for iOS devices:

    Keyspan Wireless Presentation Remote for Conferences, Boardrooms and Classrooms
    http://www.tripplite.com/sku/PRUS2
  • Reply 16 of 236
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by AppeX View Post



    iOS needs USB, a decent file system (like the Mac has, allowing the user to see all files), stop sandboxing applications with files (all files should be available to all applications) and to get out of the jail (which is absolutely unacceptable by all means).



    Having to send to myself a presentation made on the Mac to have it on iOS is a deal breaker. No way! I want freedom and to be in control of the machine, not the other way round. That is why a truly portable (pocketable) Mac is needed for presentations.



    Besides, Apple should support or even make a Bluetooth (low energy) remote control for the iOS devices like the iPad and even the iPod touch and iPhone. That would be awesome for Keynote presentations. Something like this, but for iOS devices:



    Keyspan Wireless Presentation Remote for Conferences, Boardrooms and Classrooms

    http://www.tripplite.com/sku/PRUS2

    ur kidding, right?

  • Reply 17 of 236
    mpantonempantone Posts: 1,738member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by AppeX View Post



    Besides, Apple should support or even make a Bluetooth (low energy) remote control for the iOS devices like the iPad and even the iPod touch and iPhone. That would be awesome for Keynote presentations. Something like this, but for iOS devices:



    Keyspan Wireless Presentation Remote for Conferences, Boardrooms and Classrooms

    http://www.tripplite.com/sku/PRUS2

    Ahaha, that's soooo 2008.

     

    Just get a $75 refurb Apple TV, and connect your iPad via AirPlay.

  • Reply 18 of 236

    I'm not an expert here -- I sat in on one social meeting with a bunch of phone developers. They develop for the iOS first, because with Android, there is a lot more testing, platforms and adaptation that needs to be done -- plus, they have to program for the lowest common denominator.

     

    With iPad, there's just more profit there for an application.

     

    Microsoft is pushing out first for iOS because it's less development time and more profit -- the same decision most other developers make.

  • Reply 19 of 236
    solipsismxsolipsismx Posts: 19,566member
    ur kidding, right?

    I'm certain he's not. These people are the equivalent to various sects in modern society that refuse conveniences of modern technology. They don't eschew all technology but they have drawn a line in the sand by choosing to only accept technology that existed before a certain date which means everything that made the iPhone and iPad successful, despite decades of attempts by others, is meaningless to them. To me, such comments are the same as the people that swore up and down the Mac and GUI were pointless fads that no "real" user would ever consider.
  • Reply 20 of 236

    Microsoft has been working on Office for Ipad for years, starting back in the day when Ipad was dominant. The announcement also mentioned the forthcoming version of Office for Android. Otherwise, this was yet another great piece of seething pro-Apple agitprop.

Sign In or Register to comment.