If Microsoft Office comes to the iPad, it will be the best of times and the worst of times.

It was but a mere coincidence that after my previous blog article here, entitled,

“If the expression “Give me the child aged seven….” applies to the iPad and Keynote, I’d start to worry if I ran the Microsoft Office marketing department: Lessons from a Las Vegas school”

the blogosphere somewhat choked with the “news” reported by The Daily that they had seen Office ported to the iPad. From there, many sites echoed the report, some saying The Daily had been duped, others pursuing Microsoft for comment only to receive a strange kind of denial, that more would be known in a few weeks.

That didn’t help the rumour mongering, because the time schedule placed it into iPad 3 release rumour territory. “What is possible”, some asked, “that Microsoft would appear at the iPad 3 keynote to demonstrate Office for the iPad?”

And what would they mean for Apple, for Microsoft, for Google Docs, for Android devices, and for humanity in general? OK, it’s not that big a deal, but for many it’s a serious business. After all, Office is responsible for much of those billions Microsoft earns each month, it is the default communication platform in the enterprise and many academic and military settings, and its placement on the iPad is certainly worth contemplating for its meaning.

If memory serves me correctly, the last time Microsoft took to the stage with Apple in the form of Steve Jobs — happy birthday, Steve :-( — it was in the form of Roz Ho, from the MacBU showing a version of Office for the Mac.

These were never really stellar performances, and Office for the Mac was always a step behind the capabilities of its Windows brother. So those of us with long memories will greet any availability of an Office app with a yawn, as long as we are already using iWork equivalents, such as Pages, Keynote and Numbers.

There is one Microsoft Office product in the App store, and that is OneNote. There are other MS apps of course:

Do note, if you’ll pardon the pun, that OneNote is free, but limited to 500 entries. After that, to add more you must upgrade for unlimited notes by an in-app purchase of $14.99. This may hint at the cost of individual Office apps or we may see a bundled suite.

How Microsoft chooses to price and assemble Office will intrigue some for the next few weeks, given Apple showed its hand at the very beginning of the iPad Journey almost two years ago (less a few days).

The reviews for OneNote are not great in general, and indeed it’s competing against many very fine and not very expensive notetaking apps, including the free Evernote, as well as Notify.

It was the best of opportunities

For Microsoft, it must have come as an inevitable acknowledgement of the iPad’s market power to bring Office to it, while still developing its own tablet software with a full Windows 7 installation and a version of Office very close in capabilities to that of the desktop version.

That it will bring a denuded version to the iPad is a no-brainer, much like it has suited Apple and its iWork to do so while the iPad’s CPU and GPU grow in power with each new version.

So while the opportunity exists for Microsoft to add more millions to its coffers on sales of Office for the iPad, it may come at some cost. Some may ask if a Windows 7 tablet is needed if Office can be found on the iPad, and perhaps go without. Farewell potential sales.

But of course, it’s the full completely compatible version of Office on a Windows tablet as compared to a “thin” version on the iPad, so that may be enough to steer those in the enterprise away from the iPad to the Windows powered tablet.

For Apple, this is a further opportunity to move more iPads into the enterprise by giving users their default communication and productivity tools, hopefully equipped with extras such as tracking changes and easy cloud-based updating between iPad and desktop and laptop.

Does Apple care that its own iWork suite may go Missing in Action? I don’t think so. Its addition in the first place we were told by Steve Jobs was more of a “Can we do this” aspiration rather than a dagger plunge to the heart of Microsoft. And while Pages on the iPad has met universal acclaim, the same cannot be said of Keynote. At least we have seen several upgrades for the iPad version while the updated/upgraded desktop Keynote stays locked up, ready for the right moment to pounce.

Always remembering that Apple’s software and services exists to sell hardware, Office on the iPad will do more to sell iPads than iWork ever will, if I am to be totally frank about it.

Despite iWork’s two year head start, the iPad is still on an early adopters’ curve. This means there is still a huge market to penetrate and Office will help enormously. The best of times and opportunities will continue for Apple.

The worst of times and opportunities

But there is one downside to all this merriment, if one believes Office for the iPad is a good thing.

And it is here I write selfishly, although for me it may present opportunities too.

My concern is that once Powerpoint moves onto the iPad, the grace and finesse of Keynote will be a thing of the past, and we will see the continuation of the default Powerpoint style. Even while many in the presentation world are working diligently to rid the speaking domain of its dumbed down and empirically unvalidated knowledge transfer capabilities, Powerpoint on the iPad will set presentations backwards.

Yes, I know many will say “but it’s the user, not the tool“, yada yada. But if this is the case, why do 95% of the Powerpoints I witness bore me and most of their audiences silly, breach so many of the guidelines research-based multimedia learning informs us of, and even have end-users complaining when tasked to draw up a new presentation, something I don’t hear of with Keynote users?

So, yes, the best of times for Apple perhaps, and the worst of times ahead for audiences if Powerpoint on the iPad becomes the default presentation tool.

Let’s hope if Office is coming to the iPad, that Apple has lent some UI engineering effort to the MS development team, so we at least get apps that can stand up to scrutiny, look and feel more Apple-like than Microsoft, and “just work”.

I fear it’s all too much to ask however. Reflecting on my previous blog entry, the best predictor of future behaviour is past behaviour. ‘Nuff said.

 

 

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4 responses to “If Microsoft Office comes to the iPad, it will be the best of times and the worst of times.

  1. So while the opportunity exists for Microsoft to add more millions to its coffers on sales of Office for the iPad, it may come at some cost. Some may ask if a Windows 7 tablet is needed if Office can be found on the iPad, and perhaps go without. Farewell potential SAKES.

    Hey, Les, there’s a typo – see above in all caps.

  2. “why do 95% of the Powerpoints I witness bore me and most of their audiences silly, breach so many of the guidelines research-based multimedia learning informs us of, and even have end-users complaining when tasked to draw up a new presentation, something I don’t hear of with Keynote users?”

    I figure that those things are simply correlated, and being a keynote user or a skilled presenter are both independent causal outcomes of a third variable.

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