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Should Microsoft put Office on iOS?

Is Microsoft Office, one of the most popular if not the most popular office productivity suite the techworld has ever known still relevant in the internet age and mobile technology?

If my memory serves me right, it was in 1997 when the late Steve Jobs announced that Microsoft had committed to shipping Office for the Mac for five years.  This announcement was very important at that time as it helped save Apple.  Both companies (Apple and Microsoft) committed to cross-licensed their patents.

But that was 13 years ago, and that was the PC era still.  It’s 2013 now and we have welcome the year of tablets and smartphones.  And its a given knowledge that iOS and Android is leading in this market, so is Microsoft Office still relevant and important to mobile users?

I would say yes its still relevant but its no longer a must like before.  The way we do things before is we type our documents using word processors like Word but mostly are using text editors then print it and route it perhaps for signature or submit it to HR officers maybe.  And how do we do it now?  Some still type their documents using word processors but very few print it.  Either they post it on their blog or email it.

And Microsoft knows this very well, that is why they introduced Office 365 – Microsoft’s cloud-based office, which includes a range of communication and collaboration tools, and a suite of web apps enabling Office 365 users to create and edit Office documents with just their web browsers.

But there is another problem why Microsoft is delaying to put Office on iOS devices – and that is to protect the interest of their hardware partners who also create tablets powered by Windows 8.  In other words, Microsoft is using Office as a premium product or a unique offering.  If users wants to use Office on their tablets, then users need to buy Windows 8 powered devices.  Not iOS and Android.

But there is something Microsoft should not ignore – the number of iOS and Android devices being sold in the market today.  According to a study made by Morgan Stanley analyst Adam Holt, Microsoft stands to lose $2.5 billion or more if Office won’t be part of iOS devices alone.  Holt added that Microsoft actually sees a 3-4x higher attach rate for paid Office on Macs – 30%-40% – than on Windows at 10%-15%.  “The math is compelling and may drive Microsoft to move Office,” Holt concludes.

So Microsoft is actually in a dilemma – should it protect the Windows 8 devices and sacrifice the added revenue?  Or should it consider putting Office in iOS and Android devices and simply watch how it will affect the sales performance of Windows 8 devices for such an action.

I think it’s a matter of time, Microsoft will eventually offer an Office app for iOS and Android devices – the business opportunity is simply irresistible.  The next question now is – will iOS and Android users willing to pay the amount Microsoft will be charging for iOS / Android for Office.  Let’s see.

(Article written by Jerry Liao)

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