iPad users have long been looking at Microsoft and wondering if they see the writing on the wall. Do they realize they are losing market share ignoring the iPad and its cousins? Microsoft has a long-awaited iPad version of Office reportedly ready to go and an Office update for Mac users, but has been tight lipped about when they will be coming out.
It is believed that Microsoft held off releasing iPad software as a means of pushing its own Windows tablets. They uncharacteristically sat by while businesses, schools and just about everyone widely began using iPads and Android tablets hoping theirs would catch on. However, according to technology research giant, Gartner, Microsoft’s market share only reached 2.1 percent in 2013, which was double what they had in 2012 but still way behind Apple and Android-based tablets who had the rest of the market.
It looks like Microsoft will eventually have no choice but to release their tablet version of Office for use on other systems. While they have been sitting on the sidelines, new products have appeared that enable users to do many of the same word processing, spreadsheet and presentation functions without Microsoft Office. For example, Quip is one product which has emerged that works on any platform, allows collaborative editing, provides offline support, shared folders and more. There are several other new products too that allow productivity on the go – without bringing Microsoft Office along.
One analyst noted in Singapore Today that with 200 million iPads out there, Microsoft has given up what could have been $2.5 billion a year in revenue with an iPad Office product. Exacerbating the issue for Microsoft is the fact that more companies are moving to a Bring Your Own Device practice, which allows people to use their own laptops, tablets and smartphones to access company technology. Other software products will be used if Microsoft Office cannot be used on iPads and alternative tools in the workplace, or the Mac version still lags behind.
Many are hoping Microsoft’s new chief executive, Satya Nadella, will finally announce a release date of the tablet version of Office and the new Mac version before Quip, Evernote, Google Apps and other competitors catch on further. A new Mac Office package is reportedly coming out later this year, four years after the last major update.
Another issue for Microsoft is making sure new software whatever they release for mobile devices makes better use of touchscreen technology. The most recent versions of Office even for Windows 8 use are not fully optimized for touchscreen use, which is mandatory on tablets.
Microsoft did announce at a SharePoint Conference last week and now on its blog plans to release an Office 365 Personal for individual consumers. The blog post says that purchasers will be able to install versions of the Office applications on “one Windows or MacOS computer and on one tablet.” Rumors are that this might have been Microsoft’s hint that they will allow the product to be used on any tablet. Previous announcements specifically said Windows tablets. The vague wording of this Microsoft posting has furthered talk that Office for iPad and a Mac update are coming.
By Dyanne Weiss