The Daily is reporting that Microsoft is putting the finishing touches on an iPad version of its eponymous Office Suite.
Meanwhile, Microsoft has countered with a non-denial denial by saying that the outed images are a fake, but tellingly, not denying that such an app suite is in the works.
All of this begs the more basic question of whether such a rumor makes sense given what we know about Microsoft.
To me, the answer is an an obvious and emphatic yes. There are three reasons:
- Why do you rob banks? Because that's where the money is: There are now 55M iPads out in the wild, and that number could easily be double by the end of the year. Microsoft isn't stupid. At this point, they make more money from Office than they do from Windows, and iPad is the single largest relevant platform play remaining for Office to tackle. Meanwhile, Apple's not shown the hunger or aptitude to upgrade their productivity products on either the Desktop or iOS, leaving Microsoft a golden opportunity if they can credibly execute. And to be clear, Office is a domain where Microsoft still can execute, and notably, one where they are comfortably cross-platform in terms of their operational DNA.
- The enemy of my enemy, is my friend: It's no secret that Microsoft and Apple share a mutual disdain for Google, and equally so, the two companies have a history of amicable reciprocity, while still competing in the wild. Remember, Microsoft's validation of Apple's 'relevance' by continuing to make Office for the Mac helped save Apple back in 1997 (in tandem with a much-needed cash infusion of $150M). In recent times, the companies jointly acquired Nortel patent portfolio last year, ostensibly to attack Google.
- Office is Microsoft's most durable platform: Beyond dollars and cents, there is common sense, and the common sense is this. Microsoft's dominance with its Windows platform is slowly, but surely, sunsetting as the PC gets relegated to just another device in the Post-PC era. However, looking forward, the greatest and most defensible leverage point that Microsoft has going for it is 'The Document' -- Word Docs, PowerPoint presentations, Excel Spreadsheets. There are billions, and billions and billions of them. And tellingly, there STILL is no single app that has obviated the goodness of Office. If you are Microsoft, getting the next generation of users trained on Office apps, and providing them useful ways to leverage, reuse, extend and distribute these same documents is the best way for Microsoft to get locked into the future.
Netting it Out: The first question that any user asks when contemplating a move to another word processor, spreadsheet or presentation app is this, "Will it work with my existing Office docs?"
That's the 'defensibility of the document' that Microsoft has to protect, and should look to extend as a core part of their platform play moving forward (e.g., let me create Web and Mobile services using Office as a front-end environment).
Looked at this way, delivering Office for the iPad is a no-brainer.
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