Software optimize

Mac business users best served by Microsoft Office

Erik Eckel explains why Microsoft Office applications still rule on the Mac and why Microsoft needs to bring them to the iPad as well.

One benefit of being a technology consultant is the exposure received supporting a variety of clients across numerous different industries. My office supports hundreds of commercial clients, all of which operate a range of devices and software. While we've seen most organizations adopt or support iPad use in some capacity, and while we support many organizations that use Macs exclusively, one fact is clear: Mac and iPad users are best served using Microsoft Office.

Market dominance

Regardless of industry or organization, almost every client we encounter uses Microsoft Office applications-Microsoft Word, Microsoft Excel and Microsoft PowerPoint-on Macs and iPads. Although Microsoft hasn't (yet) made Office applications available for iPad users, I suspect the time is coming. Certainly, the act wouldn't be a far-fetched, throw-in-the-towel move by Microsoft. Indeed, the same such criticisms were voiced before the company ported Office to the Mac, a business decision that proved wise for Apple's competitor. Meanwhile, while the world waits (and Microsoft shareholders forego additional potential profit) Documents To Go Premium enables iPad users to open and edit Office-formatted files on Apple's popular tablet.

Office, of course, continues to be well supported for Mac OS X users. Microsoft even upgraded the old Entourage engine to the better-performing Outlook client for the latest version.

Apple, despite its best efforts building beautiful, better-priced productivity programs in Keynote, Numbers and Pages, remains an also ran. Like many users, I've purchased Apple's iWork suite for my iPad and my MacBook Pro. But I rarely use them.

Why iWork adoption trails Office

Like most Mac business users, tasks collect on my to-do list. Every day it's a challenge to pare the list while new demands arrive each hour. I don't have the amount of time I'd like to invest on each task, so I find myself gravitating toward the applications I know best when I have to draft a document, compile numbers, or prepare a presentation. Truth be told, I've been using Windows versions of Word and Excel since the mid 90s and PowerPoint since the latter part of that decade. I can perform most functions within those apps almost automatically. Not so with the iWork suite, which while capable applications, they are not my strong suit.

Licensing is often already on hand, too, for Mac Office users. Most organizations almost automatically purchase Office OEM licenses when ordering new laptops or desktops, or they already possess an open license through Microsoft. Even with a price advantage (Apple prices the iWork suite competitively at $59.97, as compared to Microsoft Office for Mac Home & Business 2011, which sells for $199.99 for a single retail license), Apple's office productivity suite becomes an after thought or additional expense.

Then there's compatibility. Sure, I can export iWork application files in formats compatible with their Microsoft Office counterparts, which is what most of the world is using anyway. But that defeats the purpose of using iWork in the first place. Converting and exporting in different file formats just becomes wasted time, and occasional formatting or layout issues could potentially arise. As long as the rest of the world is using Microsoft Office applications -- and make no mistake, the rest of the world is using Microsoft Office, which boasts 90% market share according to Gartner -- Word, Excel, PowerPoint and even Outlook remain the go-to apps for Mac business users.

About

Erik Eckel owns and operates two technology companies. As a managing partner with Louisville Geek, he works daily as an IT consultant to assist small businesses in overcoming technology challenges and maximizing IT investments. He is also president o...

7 comments
Kingdaddy
Kingdaddy

My data is continually corrupted. Fields are imported from Address book into different areas, data duplication, etc. Also, if you add new address info directly into Outlook, it does not push that data back to Address book such that it is integrated with other computers one might have. I have a 27" iMac at work and a 17" MBP at home, and I can't keep data synced well. Yes, entering it once in Address book should cause it to be added to both machines, but somehow none of that works right. I suppose that's one reason for the proliferation of apps on the App store that are designed to find and eliminate duplicate addresses.

Tom Achor
Tom Achor

I'm a numbers guy and I don't mean Numbers, the iWork product. I wanted to like that program because it's core to what I use business apps for, and mostly I like the simplicity of Apple apps. But it's just no match for Excel in functionality or compatibility - and when apps aren't compatible, nothing is simple. So I have iWork, but I use Office. I agree, Erik, that using the applications we know and have been using for years is also simpler, although with the introduction of Office 2007 or 2008 for Mac much of the familiar was tossed out or rearranged. One exception I have to take is the idea that Office was ported to the Mac. It was the other way around - I was using Excel and Word in 1988, when there was no Windows and Lotus and Wordperfect ruled the MS-DOS universe. In fact, I bought my first Mac just so I could do Excel projects for an employer. Never looked back.

ilovesards
ilovesards

i look at apple like ussr before, and windows like usa. apple is very proprietary,always afraid somebody might harm em going into the wild. ussr is now finished. windows, like an eagle mother pushing child to fly, and mother ready to aid though . apple has done sooo many first , than windows. but windows makes people use their good products , as how it killed lotus123. one thing, soo many windows products runs on sooo many brands. with mac products, only with macs. what if mac machine dies , like jobs . can i run my softs on dell or siemens ? 10years from now ? maybe not.

Kingdaddy
Kingdaddy

Accordingly, our business must rely on it as well, so I agree wholeheartedly with the author. I find Apple Mail to be a very poor substitute for Outlook. And just look at how weak Apple implemented reminders in Mountain Lion - snooze feature's only choice is 15 minutes?? Who thought of that? Outlook significantly outperforms Apple Mail and Calendar program. While I don't have as great a need for Excel, PowerPoint and Word are my go-to applications that I am familiar with, and I love the ease of use of the ribbon. I also migrated our entire office to Office365, and it has been a great move. Exchange based email, Lync for collaboration, our intranet is built in SharePoint, all hosted in the cloud. I too can't wait to see Office for IOS. It's been absent far too long. BTW - I also run Windows 8 in Parallels in beta, and I like what I see.

drder67
drder67

Interesting how it is different strokes for different folks - my experience is the opposite. Once I learned how to use the Apple products, I haven't looked at Office on my Mac laptop, though I use a Windows machine in the office. Pages seems to me far more intuitive to use, enables me to create and edit different types of documents far more quickly than Word either on a Mac or a PC and makes those documents look better with less effort. This allows me to work through my ever growing to-do list far more quickly than were I using Office. Saving them in a doc format involves clicking a couple buttons and doesn't take more than a couple of seconds. Keynote blows Powerpoint away in terms of ease of use and look of the finished product. I get a lot of comments from people who attend my presentation on the look of my slideshows. One colleague even switched to a Mac based on how good Keynote is. Excel, however, is the spreadsheet program to use. Some of the people I work with (at a large university) who use Macs do use Office, though most don't. No one I know, however, chooses to use Entourage. Between failing to connect to mailservers, losing mail and being amazingly clunky to use, I'm not sure why anyone would choose to use that program.

ionGrid
ionGrid

I agree with both what Kingdaddy and drder67 said, because I actually use a mix of both. iCal and Mail are better for me than outlook, but I've never touched anything other than Word, Excel, and Powerpoint. I'm surprise Kingdaddy trusts his business information in the cloud. With all the recent hacks, I know I'd prefer to keep my corportate documents behind my firewall, no matter where they're being accessed from (tablet, mobile, etc). That being said, rendering excel, powerpoint, and word files on mobile devices is really hard, and can have repercussions on your business if not done well.

Kingdaddy
Kingdaddy

ionGrid - I back up everything with another solution, Dropbox, so that I have ubiquitous access to our files. It's a new era, and we're trying to stay on top of technology. I don't believe I'm that worried about hacks for either of those solutions. Actually, maybe it's more accurate for me to say that the value the cloud brings is worth the risk to me.