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.
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.