Office for iPhone a belated, ambivalent move by Microsoft

What users are really clamoring for is a full Office version for iPads, analysts say

Microsoft's release of an Office suite for the iPhone is too little, too late and yet another timid move aimed at protecting Windows 8 sales at the expense of customer demand for a product like this one for iPads, according to analysts.

Microsoft should have released full, native Office versions for both iPhones and iPads last year or in 2011, but the company has been reticent to do so, likely to use Office as a differentiator for Windows devices, in particular those running Windows 8, analysts said.

Also missing at this stage of the game are Office versions for Android smartphones and tablets, but the biggest gap is the iPad, the world's most popular tablet, which is being used for work by tens of millions of people worldwide.

Thus, Friday's announcement by Microsoft of what it calls Office Mobile for iPhone is underwhelming.

"It's a step in the right direction, but it feels late and too small," said Frank Gillett, a Forrester Research analyst. "They should have done an iPad version along with one for the iPhone sooner."

Another notable limitation of Office Mobile for iPhone is that it requires an Office 365 subscription -- either Office 365 Home Premium or Office 365 ProPlus, which cost, respectively, US$100 per user, per year and $144 per user, per year. People and organizations who instead bought Office 2013 with a perpetual license don't get access to Office Mobile for iPhone.

Given this, Gillett believes that Google's QuickOffice for iOS, which costs $19.99 as a stand-alone product and is free for Google Apps for Business customers, will stand out as a more appealing choice.

If Microsoft is thinking that Office will be a compelling enough reason for a critical mass of current iPad users to switch to Windows 8.1 tablets, it's mistaken, he said, noting that the lack of Office hasn't so far hurt iPad sales.

Michael Silver, a Gartner analyst, said that the Office Mobile for iPhone announcement shows that Microsoft continues to struggle with whether the Office Division's purpose is to primarily sell the suite or instead to prop up Windows.

Not having a native Office version for iPads "is likely to protect or give Windows 8.1 and its new devices coming out in the fourth quarter more of a boost, rather than making it really easy for iPad users to get the perfect visual fidelity on the iPad docs," he said.

The announcement at least shows Microsoft is thinking about Office beyond the world of Windows, and it may be a move to stall the market with the tease that an iPad version may be coming, he said.

"But it's certainly going to be disappointing to folks devoted to their iPads," Silver said.

Microsoft has said that its Office Web Apps -- a browser-based edition of the suite with watered-down versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote -- offers iPad users a good alternative.

Carolina Milanesi, a Gartner analyst, found the timing of Friday's announcement interesting, coming days after Apple announced iWork for iCloud, which makes the Apple productivity suite available via browsers on Apple and Windows machines. "[That gives] iPad users a way to work their way from the iPad to the PC," Milanesi said via email.

Microsoft has native iPad applications for the Office components Lync, SkyDrive and OneNote.

Asked for comment about possible plans for a full Office edition for iPads, a Microsoft spokeswoman said via email: "We built Office Mobile for iPhone to ensure a great Office experience when using a small screen device, similar to Office Mobile on Windows Phone."

She reiterated the recommendation that iPad owners use Office Web Apps. "We have made lots of enhancements to Office Web Apps including an improved touch experience for tablet users."

Juan Carlos Perez covers enterprise communication/collaboration suites, operating systems, browsers and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Follow Juan on Twitter at @JuanCPerezIDG.

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags mobileMicrosoftiossoftwareapplicationstelecommunicationMobile OSesOffice suites

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Juan Carlos Perez

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Brand Post

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Emily Tyson

MSI GE63 Raider

If you’re looking to invest in your next work horse laptop for work or home use, you can’t go wrong with the MSI GE63.

Laura Johnston

MSI GS65 Stealth Thin

If you can afford the price tag, it is well worth the money. It out performs any other laptop I have tried for gaming, and the transportable design and incredible display also make it ideal for work.

Andrew Teoh

Brother MFC-L9570CDW Multifunction Printer

Touch screen visibility and operation was great and easy to navigate. Each menu and sub-menu was in an understandable order and category

Louise Coady

Brother MFC-L9570CDW Multifunction Printer

The printer was convenient, produced clear and vibrant images and was very easy to use

Edwina Hargreaves

WD My Cloud Home

I would recommend this device for families and small businesses who want one safe place to store all their important digital content and a way to easily share it with friends, family, business partners, or customers.

Walid Mikhael

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

It’s easy to set up, it’s compact and quiet when printing and to top if off, the print quality is excellent. This is hands down the best printer I’ve used for printing labels.

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?