Software optimize

Microsoft Office on iOS/Android: Just do it already

If Microsoft wants to regain their position at the top of the tech heap, they need to embrace iOS and Android fans with Office.

For various reasons that I've discussed before, I'm still waiting for Windows Phone to win me over -- and in the meantime, I'm using an Android device (Galaxy Nexus) as my primary smartphone. One of the reasons I'm tempted to switch to Windows Phone, though, is the mobile Office suite.

Sure, I can (and do) use Quickoffice Pro or Documents To Go for working with the Microsoft Office file formats. Similarly, iPhone/iPad users can use Quickoffice Pro or DTG, or they can buy Apple's iWork apps. Still, it's not quite the same as having "real" versions of Word, PowerPoint, and Excel on your phone or tablet.

Microsoft has already given us a taste. I have Android versions of OneNote and Lync installed on my devices, and those apps are available for iOS through Apple's App Store, as well. As Scott Hanselman's blog post says, it's getting easier and easier to live the "Microsoft lifestyle" using non-Microsoft operating systems. But I (and quite a few others I've talked to) want more.

Coming soon or not?

For the past few weeks, the rumors have been swirling around about the possibility of an imminent release of Microsoft Office for the iPad. According to the above-linked story in the Daily, it's already been developed and some folks have already gotten their hands on a working prototype.

Other sources have disputed the claim, and an official Microsoft statement called the Daily story "based on inaccurate rumors and speculation" -- but stopped short of saying the company has no plans to release Office for Apple iOS, leaving that door open and keeping the rumor mill churning. Meanwhile, the same sources that insist Office for iOS is coming soon have also commented that a version for Android is not in the works. That's a disappointment to me and many other owners of Android devices.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch

Those who really want to use Office on their iDevices and Droids didn't have to wait around for Microsoft to release those apps. In keeping with Microsoft's own advice to go "to the cloud," they could instead use the OnLive hosted service that recently started offering remote access to a Windows desktop running Microsoft Office applications. You could choose from a free version or a paid one that included 50GB of cloud storage, additional PC applications, and "accelerated browsing."

The OnLive service garnered praise from many corners, including both Windows and Mac expert bloggers. Chris Maxcer over at MacNewsWorld described the experience thusly: "How well does it work? Wow is how well it works."

But there's just one not-so-little problem

In the last few days, the waste byproducts seem to have hit the oscillating instrument, with Microsoft making the statement that the OnLive offering is not properly licensed. According to a Microsoft blog post a few days ago, the two companies are "actively engaged" to bring the service into a "properly licensed scenario."

Where does that leave OnLive and its users? We're not sure, but it's likely that Paul Thurrott is correct in speculating that at best, OnLive is going to get more expensive.

Microsoft should share the love

Should Microsoft make Office apps for users of non-Microsoft devices? Should they make it easy for services such as OnLive to offer hosted solutions that let users have the "real deal" Office experience on those devices? Or would that be a case of shooting their own market in the foot?

On the surface, there are good reasons for Microsoft to want to keep Office all to itself. It's a cash cow, and despite the best efforts of competitors (Apple, OpenOffice.org, Corel), it's still overwhelmingly the "gold standard" when it comes to productivity applications. I love my Office programs, and no matter how much anyone says Product X is "almost the same" or "offers 95% of the functionality," that's not good enough for me.

As a professional writer and sometimes speaker, I spend most of every day in Word or PowerPoint. As a self-employed sole proprietor, I spend large chunks of time (especially around tax deadlines) in Excel. I've tried all the substitutes and found them wanting in one way or another. I know many others who feel the same way.

If Microsoft limited Office apps to running on its own operating systems only, that might be reason enough for some people to use Windows/Windows Phone instead of Mac, Linux, iOS, and Android. But it wouldn't delight the customer to have to switch just for that reason. Today, we live in a heterogeneous technology world. We want to be able to move seamlessly between devices, including devices running different operating systems.

Keeping Office locked into Windows sounds like an Apple strategy. I've been arguing that if Microsoft wants to regain their position at the top of the tech heap, they need to stop copying Apple's walled garden approach and open their corporate arms to embrace iOS and Android fans. Office is something that many of those "alternative OS" users want. Microsoft should give them what they want. Far from "enabling" them to stay in their Windowless worlds, I think the "catch more flies with honey" approach will, in the long run, bring more into the OS fold.

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About

Debra Littlejohn Shinder, MCSE, MVP is a technology consultant, trainer, and writer who has authored a number of books on computer operating systems, networking, and security. Deb is a tech editor, developmental editor, and contributor to over 20 add...

18 comments
ManoaHI
ManoaHI

I have a Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 running Android 3.2 (Honeycomb - still waiting for ICS) and an iPad 2 and an iPhone 4S (iDevices on iOS 5.1). I also have a Nook Tablet with the N2A card so I have Android 2.3 (Gingerbread). The New iPad is to arrive tomorrow (I'm tracking it - it's on time). I definitely want at least Word and Excel in both iOS and Android. I currently use Google Docs and QuickOffice and iWorks (the latter only on iOS, but previous on both . But if MS don't release those to iOS and Android, I will not switch to a Windows phone/tablet just to get them. It's not really worth it. I have an unlimited plan since my first phone (at least in the US, I used to live in Japan) was the original iPhone (bought second day after initial release), and switching out of the iPhone would put me into their tiered plans. So, I won't get an Android phone either.

ktreier
ktreier

Microsoft should have ported Silverlight to iOS and Android, instead they pulled a 180 and decided that the way forward with Win8 was HTML5 and JS, except neither gives you control over mobile device HW and everyone wants a native device experience.

6zaster9
6zaster9

I would very much liked to see a Libre Office ported to Android. I think it makes more sense to port free Libre O. on Linux-based Android.

ChicagoNetTech
ChicagoNetTech like.author.displayName 1 Like

Just what we need, another bloatware item to destroy the little available memory on an Android.

to_be_announced
to_be_announced

No one would make you purchase and install it. I promise.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer like.author.displayName 1 Like

I can't tell you the number of times I've gotten up for a drink of water and found Microsoft Ninjas installing Money or Encarta on my computer, using my credit card to pay for it. Now I wrap the house in tin foil every night, and duct tape the cracks in accordance with Homeland Security guidelines.

to_be_announced
to_be_announced

that has NEVER happened to me. Should watch more closely what your clicking on (or not unchecking).

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

One of the biggest stumbling blocks for Linux adaptation in the workplace has been that it won't run Office without emulator help. Would a version of Office for Android also run natively on other Linux distributions? If so, would that increase Linux installations on business desktops and laptops at the expense of Windows? If I can have the arguably superior OS for free and still run the gold-standard suite, why pay for an (inferior?) OS? Can MS take the risk? MS doesn't have a similar problem with Office for Mac; the equipment costs more than 'Wintel' systems and thus inherently limits the competition. On the off chance MS does crack on this, would other software vendors be far behind? Would this open the door for Linux versions of other LOB apps? And what about Susannah's missing evil twin? Will Courtney and Slate ever confess their love for one another? Does Luis know Amber is both his second cousin and carrying his child? Is Salerno the 'Cape Bay Strangler'?

dogknees
dogknees

For us and I'm sure a lot of other businesses, unless it's the full version of Office including VBA it's a non-starter. We have a lot of BI embedded in our internal templates and they need to work on any platform our staff use.

clinpath
clinpath

i have used ms office on both mac and windows platforms since the release on their perspective systems. the only diffuculty, per se, is ms NOT making sure of format compatibiiity wit

danbi
danbi like.author.displayName 1 Like

Microsoft was a software company that was writing applications for existing operating systems, most notably Apple's (AppleDOS). Then came along IBM and convinced them they can develop an OS.. We see the last attempts in that direction now. As one who is not bound to a single OS, for me Microsoft's office is useless product. I am not going to use an web based product either, because my documents don't leave my computer. Period. So, for me, Office does not work. About the only products that work are the (by incidence) free Office products, such as OpenOffice, that are truly cross-platform and not dependent on any single OS. There are more reasons to chose your OS, than the office suite that is made to run only there. By the way, it is not true that Microsoft offers Office only for Windows. It is always available on a Macintosh and it seems it's Mac version is always better... go figure.

to_be_announced
to_be_announced

Please enlighten us on how the same software is better on a Mac.

TNT
TNT like.author.displayName 1 Like

It's called Office365, it works in a browser, and is the full-fledged office experience on any device with an internet connection. I think MS is smart NOT offering Office on iOS and Android. It will drive more user's (especially corporate users) to Windows Phone or it will drive businesses toward deploying Office365 so its available anywhere any time. Either decision helps MS. If Office were released for iOS and Android where is the long term benefit to MS? Sure it may extend the profits in the Office segment, but by not offering it they can still extend the Office segment via 365 and may extend the Windows Phone 7 segment that has an admittedly dismal growth rate. As for the "good will" they may receive if they do release it? That and $4 will get you a cup of coffee at Starbucks. No, Microsoft should hold out offering Office to other platforms in order to wring out as much capacity as possible from 365 and WP, THEN they can roll it out to other devices (if its even necessary at that time).

djcjwags
djcjwags

Have you tried to a edit a doc on office365? It's a no go. The need is there for an app or redevelop office 365 so it works via the web on all devices.

Mark W. Kaelin
Mark W. Kaelin

Do you use a version of Microsoft Office on devices running operating systems other than Windows?

ADRz
ADRz

I would never attempt to write a document or compose a spreadsheet in a portable device. I will use my desktop and laptop for this. Portable Office apps are either for emergency use or just viewing some documents, again, when no desktop or laptop is around. I really do not care how "full featured" MS Office is on a portable device, I would never produce anything in such an environment.

rpollard
rpollard like.author.displayName 1 Like

Microsoft has a "walled garden" approach. Don't know of any operating system other than Mac that it's available on. There's nothing else that I'm aware of that they have on any other operating system. Just look what they did with an absolutely wonderful game (Halo) when they bought the company. Talking about "walled garden" practices.

MrElectrifyer
MrElectrifyer

Never bothered editing my docs on productivity-lacking OSs, got a laptop to do real work and enjoy flexible entertainment on :p Though, still have to use them (the OSs) almost every week to print stuff off in certain locations on my campus; for that, there's what we call PDF to prevent those Office wannabe document editors from messing up the formatting and alignments in the document. Need to re-edit it? My laptop n freed iPhone (ma USB drive+) are never out of reach, so why give up productivity for just beauty? ;)