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The Battle Between Microsoft and Apple Could Kill Office for iOS

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News Posted: Fri, Feb 1 2013 3:36 PM
It has been over six years since Apple introduced the iPhone. Millions of apps have been written for the platform in that time, with collective downloads into the billions. Apple's App Store is a thriving marketplace with a huge amount of software available on virtually any topic you can think of.

But not Microsoft Office.

There are plenty of third-party applications that handle Word and Excel files, but no apps from Microsoft itself. Office documents can be viewed through the SkyDrive application, but there's no editing capability. There's a version of Office for iOS supposedly in the works, but Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer threw cold water on the idea when asked about upcoming events for the Office suite after launching the new Office 2013 / Office 365 products earlier this week.

Asked how Office for the iPad was coming along, Ballmer told Bloomberg:
I have nothing to say on that topic. We’re very glad with the product, very happy with the product that we’re putting in market. It makes sense on the devices like the Mac and the PC. We have a product that we think makes a lot of sense. We do have a way for people always to get to Office through the browser, which is very important. (emphasis added)
About That Browser Solution

After a bit of experimentation, I can confirm that Steve Ballmer apparently lives in an alternate universe in which Microsoft Office is "accessible" from an iPhone. My iPhone 4S on iOS 5 was able to login into SkyDrive, no problem, but when I attempted to create a document, I ended up with this:



Safari treats the blank white space as an image rather than a text field; there's no way to input any document information or execute a "Paste" command. Tapping on the left-hand arrow brings up an option to increase the font (hilarious, given the total lack of writing) or to show the upper menu -- which is then used to return to SkyDrive's main folders.

When iOS was strictly an iPhone game, the question of how many people actually needed an Office suite (as opposed to the ability to view Office documents was a valid objection to whether or not MS should invest in building a product for the market. With tablets coming on strong for both iOS and Android, an Office suite suddenly makes a lot more sense. Some analysts have referred to the product as a practical license to print money for the company, and while that's debatable, pretending that iOS and Android don't exist isn't making Microsoft any money whatsoever.

So where is it? Great question.

Revenue sharing is reportedly a major sticking point. Microsoft is trying to push people towards yearly subscriptions with Office 2013 and Office 365, but Apple requires a 30 percent profit share on the sales of any application. Microsoft reportedly isn't thrilled at the idea of sharing that much revenue with Cupertino. Given that Office 365 would stretch across multiple devices, it's not clear how a sale would be counted in the first place.



If I bought an Office 365 subscription and an iPhone client was available, I'd expect access to it -- I already paid Microsoft for the software. Giving the client away, however, would nuke any chance of monetizing the service on iPhone or Android -- and monetization is the name of the game.

We may see an announcement later this year, but this is one area where Microsoft's desire to drive software-as-a-service adoption and the push to sell as many copies of Office across various devices as possible appear to have collided. It's ironic, really -- when Bill Gates agreed to port Office to the Mac nearly 20 years ago, it was seen as a lifeline for the beleaguered manufacturer. Now, Microsoft is knocking on the door of Apple's business -- and Cupertino seems disinclined to share.
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CDeeter replied on Fri, Feb 1 2013 6:14 PM

Does Office 365 only work with certain browsers?

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3vi1 replied on Fri, Feb 1 2013 8:03 PM

>> when Bill Gates agreed to port Office to the Mac nearly 20 years ago, it was seen as a lifeline for the beleaguered manufacturer

Actually, it was 24 years ago. Office was released for Macintosh before it was released for Windows.  Because, at the time, Windows 2.0 sucked sooooo bad.

What part of "Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn" don't you understand?

++++++++++++[>++++>+++++++++>+++>+<<<<-]>+++.>++++++++++.-------------.+++.>---.>--.

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3vi1 replied on Fri, Feb 1 2013 8:50 PM

>> Does Office 365 only work with certain browsers?

It's actually supported in Safari and Firefox. For now.

If MS doesn't support the iPad, they'll be cutting off their nose to spite their face. People aren't going to switch devices they own to run software they don't have yet, they're going to buy different software. The Office experience is so limited on a tablet that the software suite itself is not a legitimate reason to settle for a Windows tablet.

What part of "Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn" don't you understand?

++++++++++++[>++++>+++++++++>+++>+<<<<-]>+++.>++++++++++.-------------.+++.>---.>--.

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CDeeter replied on Sat, Feb 2 2013 9:45 AM

So if you have safari on your iPad you could at least use Office 365, yes? I know in the article he said he had problems with Sky Drive, but maybe 365 would work.

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3vi1 replied on Sat, Feb 2 2013 7:05 PM

>> So if you have safari on your iPad you could at least use Office 365, yes?

Yes. It should work fine.

What part of "Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn" don't you understand?

++++++++++++[>++++>+++++++++>+++>+<<<<-]>+++.>++++++++++.-------------.+++.>---.>--.

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Dave_HH replied on Sun, Feb 3 2013 12:14 PM

That's news to me, 3vi1. I'm unsure of the reference you're citing here and what makes it more credible than Joel. :) Joel?

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Joel H replied on Sun, Feb 3 2013 12:18 PM

The reference here is to the 1997 $150M investment into Apple at a critical juncture after Jobs had assumed control over the company again, not the 1989 deal that saw Office released for Mac first. The 1989 deal is a historical blip. The 1997 arrangement was seen as a major event due to animosity between the two companies, as well as an expression of support for a company that desperately needed it.

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Joel H replied on Sun, Feb 3 2013 12:35 PM

PS -- If it's possible to test Office 365 in a browser environment, I haven't figured out how. There's a free trial you can sign up for, but the first thing it wants you to do is download the Office desktop software for deployment. All of the resources baked into the trial are aimed at giving businesses the ability to experiment with things like Outlook setup, Lync, Exchange, etc.

If you look for the Office web apps: http://office.microsoft.com/en-us/web-apps/

You are bounced into SkyDrive. That's the vector I already explored. It doesn't work.

The Office 365 + iPad searches I've run all point to setting up Exchange with Office 365, for example. There's no information on "How do I write a gorram Word document using Office 365 and Safari?"

If there's a portal for doing something like that, I'm missing it.

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