Office for iPad: A Sheep in Wolf’s Clothing

Microsoft finally appears ready to launch a version of Office for iPad. A wolf among the sheep? Or a sheep in wolf’s clothing?

Plan A: Ignore The iPad


  1. The iPad goes on sale, April 2010.


  1. There is nothing to fear from the iPad.

It’s not like I sit there and feel the same way I did with iPhone, where I say, ‘Oh my God, Microsoft didn’t aim high enough.’ It’s a nice reader, but there’s nothing on the iPad I look at and say, ‘Oh, I wish Microsoft had done it. ~ Bill Gates

  1. The iPad doesn’t even run Office.

Without Office, there would be darkness and chaos.

  1. Stay calm and carry on.

Never underestimate our ability to ignore the obvious. ~ Po Bronson

  1. All will be well.

Cheer up, the worst is yet to come. ~ Philander Johnson

Plan B: The Surface


  1. Okay, okay, that iPad thingie is selling pretty well.

Nothing is more humiliating than to see idiots succeed in enterprises we have failed in. ~ Gustave Flaubert


  1. We need our own tablet alternative.

Change is not made without inconvenience, even from worse to better. ~ Richard Hooker

  1. The iPad is just a toy.

Microsoft is very clever but sometimes they let their brains go to their head.

  1. Apple has sold millions upon millions of iPads, but clearly they’re doing it all wrong. What people REALLY want is a tablet that runs like a desktop and a desktop that runs like a tablet. The two operating systems shouldn’t be separate, they should run side-by-side!

Don’t ever take a fence down until you know why it was put up. ~ Robert Frost

  1. What people REALLY want is a 2-in-1 computer that can run Windows and do “real work.”

A patient was at her doctor’s office after undergoing a complete physical exam. The doctor said, “I have some very grave news for you. You only have six months to live.” The patient asked, “Oh doctor, what should I do?” The doctor replied, “Buy a Microsoft Surface Computer with Office.” “Will that make me live longer?” asked the patient. “No,” said the doctor, “but it will SEEM longer.”

  1. We’ll throw in Microsoft Office too. That will make up for the one million missing applications.

It is what we think we know already that often prevents us from learning. ~ Claude Bernard

Plan C: Office For iPhone


  1. Surface sales seriously suck.


  1. I don’t get it. If customer’s can’t live without Office, then why aren’t they dead?

If brains were gas, you wouldn’t have enough to power a scooter around the inside of a Froot Loop.

  1. I know! Customer’s DO want Office but they also want iPads.

Face reality as it is, not as it was or as you wish it to be. ~ Jack Welch

  1. The Surface is the problem. No, BALLMER is the problem! Cut Windows loose from Surface. Cut Ballmer loose from Microsoft!

If you can talk brilliantly about a problem, it can create the consoling illusion that it has been mastered. ~ Stanley Kubrick

  1. Let’s start by selling Office for iPhone!

I spent a month using Office for iPhone — I think it was on a Sunday. ((Inspired by W. C. Fields))

  1. Great, now everything will be okeedokee.

Apparently, if you stay in Redmond, you lose two points of IQ every year. ((Inspired by Truman Capote))

Plan D: Office For iPad

Cartoon sheep

  1. No one gave a damn about Office on the iPhone. Or even noticed it.

Most people wanted to ignore Office for iPhone because Office for iPhone ignored what most people wanted.


  1. OK, we’ve wasted four long years not selling Office for iPad.

A lion walks into a bar and says, “I’d like a whisky and . . . a packet of peanuts, please.” The bartender replies, “Why the big pause?”

  1. The Office for iPhone thing didn’t work out quite the way we planned, but what people REALLY, REALLY, REALLY want is Office, but they want it on the iPad.

Dope springs eternal.

  1. Some analysts estimate that since 30% of Mac users own office, as many as 30% of iPad users will buy Office too.

I don’t know what you’re on but it can’t be legal.

  1. It won’t help sell Surface tablets, but it will make a lot of money. How much money?

“The day they introduce Office for iOS and Android, they’ll start printing money.” ~ Bob O’Donnell, then an analyst with IDC

Plan E: Everything Could Go Wrong

Normally, I like to make my predictions after the fact. I find it improves my accuracy. But I’m going to go out on a limb and predict Office for iPad will be a great big nothing. It has too many things working against it.

There is no question Office is good at what it’s good at. But is that good enough?

The main reason Office sold as well as it did was because it held a monopoly on Windows PCs. This has caused Microsoft to vastly overestimate its popularity. Here’s how Microsoft pictures its Office Suite:

Beautiful showgirls dancing cancan

Here’s how business users picture Microsoft’s Office Suite:

Old men dancing

Here’s how consumers picture Microsoft’s Office Suite:


  1. There are plenty of free Office Suites available.
  2. There are over 100,000 apps that have unbundled the various functions that Office performs.
  3. Tablet software has been commoditized. Who wants to pay for Office when there’s plenty of cheaper, “good enough” alternatives available?
  4. The wildly successful adoption of the iPad strongly suggests that iPad users don’t need Office.
  5. iPad is doing well in the Enterprise without Office.
  6. Tablets are all about simplicity. Office is all about complexity. How’s that gonna work?
  7. A touch input interface is a whole different animal than a mouse input interface. John Gruber says that he’s heard that Office for iPad is the real deal. I’ll remain skeptical until I see it. Why? Because I believe that the better the touch interface will be, the less Office-like the product will be and the more Office-like the product will be, the less touch enabled it will be. We’ll see soon enough.
  8. The real threats come from use cases where one doesn’t need to be using Office at all.

It’s far too late. The Windows for iPad ship has sailed.

“If only.” They must be the two saddest words in the world. ~ Mercedes Lackey

Plan F: The Future

Life is like an onion; you peel it off one layer at a time, and sometimes you weep. ~ Carl Sandburg

Even if Office for iPad utterly fails, it is still a pivotal event for Microsoft.

There is always a comforting thought in time of trouble when it is not our trouble ~ Marquis

The fact that Microsoft is moving Office to the iPad, combined with the fact Microsoft is moving Office to the iPad even before it brings out a touch-optimized version of Office for the Surface, is a very strong signal that things are changing at Microsoft.

By trying we can easily learn to endure adversity. Another man’s, I mean. ~ Mark Twain

It’s too soon to know in which direction Microsoft is headed, but it’s not too soon to know they are changing direction.

Life isn’t about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself. ~ George Bernard Shaw

And since Microsoft was definitely headed in the wrong direction before, this change gives one hope.

The future will be better tomorrow. ~ Dan Quayle

Beating The Dead Horse That Is Microsoft Windows (Part 2)

This is part two of a two-part series focusing on what’s gone wrong with Microsoft Windows. If you want to read part 1, click here. If you want to know what’s gone wrong with Microsoft Windows and what its probable future will be…well, read on….

Before you criticize someone, you should walk a mile in their shoes. That way when you criticize them, you are a mile away from them and you have their shoes.

Microsoft’s Core Beliefs

A company’s actions invariably revolve around its core beliefs. What then are some of the core beliefs that helped to shape Microsoft’s most recent Windows 8 campaign?

“We don’t see things as they are, we see them as we are.” – Anaïs Nin


The advantages inherent in protecting the company’s biggest moneymakers is obvious. (The disadvantages, on the other hand, are far more obscure.) Focusing on what the company is especially good at – and where most of the company’s monies are made – is the default strategy of almost all businesses.

If the company is doing something well, then the norm is to keep on doing what they’re doing – only more of it.

“Nothing is more important at Microsoft than Windows.” — Steve Ballmer, CES 2012 Keynote


Microsoft sincerely believes that the “Windows” Brand is both beloved and valuable. It only make sense then for Microsoft to leverage the value of that Brand by slapping it onto nearly everything they make.

“Convictions are more dangerous enemies of truth than lies.” ~ Nietzsche


Two classic business strategies are the “first mover” and the “fast follower”. I’d classify Microsoft as a “slow follower”. Microsoft seems to believe that the best way to compete in new markets is to do what the new product leader is doing…only do it better. Microsoft waits until a clear market winner has emerged and then they try to jump in, mid-race.

The obvious advantage to such a strategy is that Microsoft is able to wait and identify which markets are going to be winners. They can also learn from the mistakes of those who went before them and incorporate those learnings into their own, subsequent, product offerings.

Most importantly, Microsoft believes that their late start can be overcome by their superior technological know-how — aided, of course, by leveraging their existing Windows and Office monopolies and by exploiting their huge cash reserves. Such a belief reveals the incredible sense of self-confidence that Microsoft has in its own abilities. Some might call it hubris, but in Microsoft’s defense, their seemly arrogant strategy has been validated by past successes.

Microsoft dominated personal computing for 25 years. For many, many of those years, they controlled 95% of the personal computing market – a monopoly that is virtually unheard of without the assistance of government mandates. In computing, Microsoft was the very embodiment of the allegorical 900 pound gorilla. What Microsoft wanted, Microsoft took.

For example, Microsoft was late to the internet market, but when they put their mind and muscle to it, they slowly, but surely, smushed their Netscape internet challenger and made their own Internet Explorer THE default internet browser for the vast majority of personal computer users.

Similarly, Microsoft was a very new entrant in a very old gaming console market, but when they put their full weight behind the Xbox, they eventually (after going 5 billion dollars in the hole) became the gaming console market leader. Is there any other company that has the patience, perseverance or cash reserves necessary to follow such a strategy?

Microsoft won the internet wars and the console wars, and they did it with sheer brute force. When you are as big and as strong and as successful as Microsoft, is it any wonder that you think highly of your own abilities?

“An old belief is like an old shoe. We so value its comfort that we fail to notice the hole in it.” ~ Robert Brault


The Office Suite gives Microsoft a huge strategic advantage in the notebook and desktop markets. Microsoft Office wasn’t the first killer application, but it is the biggest, baddest suite of killer applications of our time.

Microsoft believes that Office is their ace in the hole in the mobile wars. The other mobile platforms may have a large lead in apps, but the Office Suite is the killer app that levels the playing field.

When in doubt, observe and ask questions. When certain, observe at length and ask many more questions. ~ George S. Patton


Microsoft has always insisted that the tablet is simply another kind of PC. Microsoft contends that tablets alone don’t cut it. What people really want is a productive tablet, a two-in-one device that serves as both a tablet and a notebook, a hybrid that “powers people on-the-go for the activities people really value.”

A belief is not true because it is useful. ~ Henri Frédéric Amiel


I believe Microsoft wanted to both differentiate Windows 8 from the offerings of their competitors and to strike at their competitors where they were the most vulnerable. This is a classic strategy known as “exploiting the line of least resistance.” Walmart parlayed this strategy into an empire by initially building their mega-stores in rural areas that their competitors found unprofitable.

Exploit the line of least resistance – so long as it can lead you to any objective which would contribute to your underlying object. ~ B.H. Liddell Hart, Strategy

Microsoft’s line of least resistance was – hybrid computers. In strategic terms, hybrids offered Microsoft a wealth of opportunities. First, no one else was seriously competing there. Second, Windows 8’s dual OS was the seemingly perfect hybrid operating system. Third, hybrids were a natural bridge that could be used to migrate Microsoft’s huge existing desktop customer base onto and into the burgeoning tablet market space.

In strategic terms, Microsoft was partially successful.They did go where Apple and Android were not – which is the beginning of a good strategy. However, they also went where the market was not.

Microsoft exploited the line of least resistance, but the reason it was the line of least resistance was because it didn’t lead to a meaningful objective. It does one no good to exploit a pass unguarded by the enemy if the reason the enemy left that pass unguarded was because it led to nowhere.

A girl phoned me the other day and said, “Come on over; nobody’s home.” I went over. Nobody was home. ~ Rodney Dangerfield

Following the line of least resistance is good strategy – but only if it takes you to your desired goal.

Microsoft’s Windows 8 Campaign

In their Windows 8 campaign, Microsoft made (at least) four key strategic decisions:

1) Create their own (Surface) hardware, but continue to license their operating system software to third-party manufacturers too.

2) Create three separate operating systems for the phone, tablet and desktop, then attempt to unify all three under one name and one user interface.

3) Start a brand new, incompatible, tablet platform named “RT” and supplement it with software from the existing Windows Office Suite.

4) Create a dual OS operating system that would work on tablets, notebooks and desktops but be tailored to run on tablet/notebook hybrids.

Every one of Microsoft’s major campaign decisions contains an inherent contradiction, an internal inconsistency, a self-destructive insistence on having things “both ways”. Let’s see how these decisions played out in practice.

You can’t dance at two weddings at the same time; nor can you sit on two horses with one behind. ~ Yiddish proverb


1.1) Microsoft’s share of connected devices sales (in effect, PCs plus iOS and Android) collapsed from over 90% in 2009 to under 25% today.

Screen Shot 2013-07-20 at 9.32.23 pm
Source: Benedict Evans

Microsoft is painfully aware of the fact that their Windows operating system is rapidly sliding from monopoly status to third place, behind Android and iOS.

“If things go wrong, don’t go with them.” – Roger Babson

1.2) Microsoft’s smart phone licensing strategy has been an utter disaster. Not only is Microsoft’s share of the smart phone market tiny, but Microsoft can’t charge the consumer for the operating system like it does on the PC, and Microsoft’s royalty fees from licensing the Windows Phone OS to manufacturers like Nokia, HTC and Samsung are being given back to these companies in the form of marketing dollars.

1.3) In light of these facts, Microsoft decided to adopt Apple’s integrated model and make their own hardware as well as their own software.

When people are free to do as they please, they usually imitate each other ~ Eric Hoffer

Microsoft is virtually telling the world “Our business model works great — except when it doesn’t.”

1.4) The good news is:

— Vertical integration allows Microsoft to better control the user experience from start to finish. ((“What this reorganization makes clear is that Microsoft now thinks it will have to control its own destiny: no longer will it depend on Intel for the computing power, Dell for manufacturing expertise, or HP for marketing heft (and, lest we forget, all of them for its technical support) to get its technologies in front of the public.”))

— It enables Microsoft to make money on hardware.

— It puts Microsoft in a position to directly compete with Apple. ((Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer told CRN in an exclusive interview Monday that the company’s Surface tablet marks a new era in which the computer software giant will leave no “stone unturned” in its innovation battle against Apple.))

1.5) Make no mistake about it, this is a fundamental shift in the company’s business model, and it could absolutely end up backfiring.

— Microsoft has decided that third-party hardware manufacturers are part of the problem, and not part of the solution.

— Microsoft has stripped funding from its partners and reallocated it to their own hardware efforts. ((“Microsoft’s marketing budgets that are allocated so far for Q2 2013 include absolutely no support for Windows Phone partners.”))

— Microsoft’s strategy distances their interests from the interests of their hardware partners, such as Acer, ((Acer won’t do Windows Phone this year, wants Microsoft to pick up the pace.)) Samsung, ((Something Else Revealed At Samsung’s Launch Event: Disdain For Windows RT.)) Nokia, ((Nokia pulls plug on Windows RT tablet, signals end MSFT)) device makers based in Asia, ((Device makers based in Asia are not keen on Windows RT. That has become painfully clear.)) and trade shows such as Computex. ((One year after debut, Windows RT is a Computex no-show.))

— Microsoft’s policy encourages their hardware partners, such as AMD, ((After years of Windows OS exclusivity, Advanced Micro Devices is opening the door to design chips to run Google’s Android and Chrome OS in PCs and tablets.)) to migrate to Android. ((Android has become a hedge against Microsoft and Windows.))

— Hardware is – no pun intended – hard. Probably a lot harder than Microsoft thought. ((Switching from software to hardware, however, is proving very hard. I’m sure quite a bit harder than (Microsoft’s) management thought.))

— All of this hardware diversification is causing massive customer confusion. Quoting from “Making Sense of All the New Laptop Flavors“:

“Milunovich cites the two different models of Microsoft’s Surface — the ”RT” model running on an Nvidia (NVDA) microprocessor, and the … “Pro” model running on Intel‘s (INTC) microprocessor, as one prominent instance of possible “confusion among consumers relating to software versions and the herd of vendors churning out product.”

“Milunovich thinks the increasing diversity in tablets offered on the market plays to Apple’s advantage, because “user confusion favors Apple given its leading brand, relatively simple product line, and retail store support,” he argues.”

1.6) The entire exercise is counter-productive. The Surface RT and the Surface Pro are not taking sales away from iOS and Android devices. If anything, Microsoft’s hardware is cannibalizing their partner’s Ultrabook sales. ((“Surface Pro is really a PC, and potential buyers will also be considering notebooks and ultrabooks.” noted Moorhead.)) What purpose does that serve?

“A house divided against itself cannot stand.” ~ Abraham Lincoln


It has always been the dream of programmers to use one underlying code base to run software everywhere. Microsoft has turned that dream on its head and has, instead, devised a scheme that uses three, wholly separate and incompatible phone, tablet and desktop code bases, to run one, seemingly self-same, user interface.

Microsoft has gotten it completely backwards.

Try imagining using one user interface on three different form factors. For example, would you want the same user interface on your bicycle, your motorcycle and your car? On a trowel, a shovel and a backhoe? On a cork-board, a blackboard and a scoreboard? Even the iPad – which critics view as “merely a big iPod touch” – employs a separate user interface from that of the iPhone.

The form factor should not be tailored to the user interface. It’s the other way around. The user interface should be tailored to the form factor. In Microsoft’s desire to have one user interface across all of their Windows devices, they forgot about the most important thing – the user experience.

“How many legs does a dog have if you call the tail a leg? Four. Calling a tail a leg doesn’t make it a leg.” – Abraham Lincoln

How many operating systems do you have if you call them all “Windows 8”? Three. Calling three operating systems by one name does not make them one operating system.


3.1) Microsoft knew that Windows RT was starting at a severe disadvantage to the incumbent tablet makers. It was late, late, late in the platform game and their iOS and Android competitors had literally racked up millions of competing mobile apps. What to do, what to do?

Well, here’s a couple of things that you should probably not do when launching a brand new platform:

— Call your new platform “RT” for “Run Time. (I mean…are you kidding me?)

— Craft your tablet advertising campaign around…a keyboard? RT is supposed to be a tablet platform, right? Focusing tablet advertising on the keyboard is like focusing car advertising on the trailer hitch.

— Introduce the platform with virtually no native software.

— Introduce a platform that doesn’t run Windows 8 applications on the very same day that you introduce Windows 8.

— Make it hard for App developers to know where they’re supposed to focus. (Windows Phone 8, Surface RT, Windows 8?)

Osborne yourself by telling potential customers that you will be, in a few months, releasing a Windows Pro tablet that will do everything that the RT tablet does not.

— Introduce your platform with no clear message, no clear identity and no clear use case.

You have two systems (and operating systems) that look the same and run some of the same apps, but aren’t the same. ~ Mashable

Let me put this to you, the reader. Can you adequately explain the difference between Windows RT and the Windows Pro in a sentence? In a paragraph?

Neither can Microsoft.

If you want to give God a good laugh, tell Him your plans. ~ Yiddish proverb

3.2) Microsoft thought that the Office Suite would be the killer app that would drive sales of the RT platform. But does RT’s ability to run the Office Suite make up for its inability to run the 199,999 apps it’s missing? Not hardly.

Office is not the killer app that Microsoft thinks it is. Non-Microsoft competitors are already far more useful on touch devices. Porting the desktop Office to the touchscreen device is merely an exercise in futility. ((Microsoft Office for the iPhone Is Here. Yawn. / Office for iPhone downloads start with a bang, but fizzle before 4th; Office Mobile for iPhone: Why? / Microsoft Doesn’t Seem To Be Fooling Anyone With Its New Office For iPhone App / Office for iPhone is a belated, ambivalent move, analysts say / Microsoft Office not worth wait / Microsoft’s Office For iPhone: Wrong Product, Wrong Market))

Microsoft’s Office gambit has failed. If you really want Office on your computer, RT is not the solution for you. You’ll be far happier with a Windows laptop or desktop.

Most manufacturers have already dropped plans for developing Windows RT-based products, given the timid sales of their first batch, due to the limited number of applications for the platform. Microsoft’s second Surface RT tablet might be the sole king of a barren land.

“A half-baked idea is okay as long as it’s in the oven.”


4.1) Microsoft seems to truly believe that tablets are underpowered, unproductive devices and that people don’t really want to use them. Of course, this completely ignores the success of the iPad, but let’s set that aside for the moment.

Microsoft believes that what people really want is a single device that they can use to get serious work done; what people really want is a hybrid that does it all; what people really want is a replacement for both the PC and the iPad. According to Microsoft, ordinary people may need to use a tablet here and there, but what they really want in a tablet is the power of a PC and a PC powered by Microsoft Windows.

Microsoft’s products and advertising say it loud and say it proud:
— Two operating systems are better than one;
A two-in-one device is twice as good as owning two separate devices; and
— A dual Operating System that runs on tablets and desktops and hybrids (oh my!) is the best of all possible worlds!

Whenever you look at a piece of work and you think the fellow was crazy, then you want to pay some attention to that. One of you is likely to be, and you had better find out which one it is. It makes an awful lot of difference. ~ Charles Franklin Kettering

4.2) Only, here’s the rub. All of Microsoft’s assertions and assumptions fly in the face of reality.

— No single manufacturer has successfully combined a full PC with the form factor of a tablet and made it work. That should be telling you something.

— The Windows 8 interface baffles consumers.

— People don’t want to use apps on their desktop PC. People don’t want a two-in-one device or touchscreen on their PC. People don’t want a tablet OS with the desktop OS bolted on. People don’t want a tablet on their PC.

— People don’t want legacy Windows applications on their tablet. People don’t want a two-headed OS on their tablet. People don’t want a desktop computer on their tablet.

— People don’t want an all-in-one computer. People DO want multiple connected devices

“Many users are realizing that everyday computing, such as accessing the Web, connecting to social media, sending emails, as well as using a variety of apps, doesn’t require a lot of computing power or local storage,” said IDC analyst Loren Loverde. “Instead, they are putting a premium on access from a variety of smaller devices with longer battery life, an instant-on function, and intuitive touch-centric interfaces.” ~ AllThingsD

The market has voted: Tablets that are just tablets are trouncing Microsoft’s hybrid tablet/PC devices.


PCs are like Humpty Dumpty; they are being broken into pieces and won’t be put back together again. ~ Stratechery

4.3) The sad thing is, Microsoft knew better.

Mossberg: What’s your device in five years that you’ll rely on the most?

Gates: I don’t think you’ll have one device. I think you’ll have a full screen device that you can carry around and you’ll do dramatically more reading off of that – yeah, I believe in the tablet form factor – and then we’ll have the evolution of the portable machine and the evolution of the phone will both be extremely high volume, complimentary, that is if you own one you’re likely to own the other… ~ AllThingsD, 2007

144300-3dc6ca66-edc1-11e2-a799-ec5c9dace08aBill Gates saw the future, but he – and Microsoft – abandoned their vision in an attempt to salvage their Windows empire. The future, they knew, was multiple connected devices. But that future had touch operating systems – not Windows operating systems – at its core. And Microsoft couldn’t have that.

Windows 8 is not an attempt to create the future of computing.

Windows 8 is an attempt to preserve Microsoft’s past.

Vision without action is daydream. Action without vision is nightmare. ~ Japanese proverb


“If you cannot answer a man’s argument, all it not lost; you can still call him vile names.” – Elbert Hubbard

Are Microsoft’s Windows 8 problems fixable or are they intractable?

— So long as Microsoft does both hardware and software, either Microsoft’s hardware sales, or the hardware sales of their partners, or both, will suffer.

— So long as Microsoft has 3 different operating systems, Developers and app development will suffer.

— So long as RT tries to use the Office Suite as a substitute for native apps, RT sales will suffer.

— So long as Microsoft’s tablet OS runs dual operating systems tailored for hybrids, their tablet sales (and their tablet owners) will suffer.

Post-PC does not mean no PC. It means that the PC is no longer the dominant device; the center of the computing world.

It is a certainty that Microsoft Windows will continue too. But it is just as certain that it will no longer be the dominant operating system. And unless Microsoft radically changes its strategy – which I highly doubt – Window’s will not be vying for dominance – it will be vying for relevance.

One meets his destiny often in the road he takes to avoid it. ~ French proverb


Whose funeral is this, anyway?

The End of Purchased Software (Updated)

For Rent and For Sale (© Kristina Afanasyeva - software has always been an illusion. When you bought a program in a box, it seemed like you were purchasing something like a book or a music CD. But if you looked closely at the terms and conditions you had to agree to before installing program, you realized what you really had was a conditional license to use the software in ways the seller deemed proper.

For most people, this was a distinction without much of a difference. You could do pretty much what you wanted with the software, even sell it used (though you might run into trouble with a package that used an activation key.) That may be why hardly anyone bothered to read the terms & conditions.

But now the illusion of software ownership is fast disappearing. The big change is Microsoft moving to a subscription model for Office 2013. Yes, you can still buy the software (or more properly, buy a perpetual license to use it). Microsoft Office 2013 Home and Business (Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, Outlook) costs $220.The Professional version costs $399 and adds Publisher and Access. Office Home and Student. $140, subtracts Outlook and, at least technically, may not be used for commercial purposes.

These prices offer a lot less value than earlier editions. You used to be able to activate each copy of Office on two computers.These were supposed to be a desktop and a laptop, but this license requirement was not enforced in practice. And if you replaced a computer, you could uninstall Office fromt he old system and activate it on the new.

No more. All editions of Office 2013 are licensed for a single computer and are tied to that system forever. (Microsoft has the technical means to enforce that, though it remains to be seen how rigorously they will do so.) SEE UPDATE BELOW.

Microsoft is making it very clear through these unattractive terms that it doesn’t want you to buy software anymore. It wants home users to spend $99 for an annual Office 365 Home Premium subscription that offers all of the core Office applications on up to five computers (Windows or Macs). The package also includes 20 gigabytes of SkyDrive storage and 60 minutes a month of Skype calling. Like the old Home and Student version, commercial use is theoretically prohibited. Business versions come in a complex variety of plans depending on the number of seats and the applications and back-end services covered. but the basic Small Business Premium offering, which includes hosted Exchange email and Lync conferencing, costs $15 per month per user for up to 25 users.[pullquote]Microsoft is making it clear through these unattractive terms that it doesn’t want you to buy software anymore.[/pullquote]

Microsoft is hardly the first software company to go down this path. Last year, Adobe rolled out its Creative Cloud, a subscription service for its Creative Suite applications, including Photoshop, Dreamweaver, Audition, Premiere, and other creative tools. Access to the full CS6 suite on up to two computers simultaneously costs $50 a month on an annual contract; a single application is $20 a month.

Get used to this. Software vendors, Microsoft in particular, are recasting their business models to become service providers. Microsoft no longer want to just sell you Office; it wants you to use Office as part of its rapidly growing cloud infrastructure. If you are a small- to medium-sized business, someone who in the past might have been a Windows Small Business Server customer, it want to sell you hosted SharePoint for collaboration; hosted Exchange for mail, calendar, and contacts; Lync for conferencing, and anything else it can dream up. And it wants to stay a step or two ahead of Google Apps for Business, a cheaper, but in many ways less capable, offering.

None of this is necessarily a bad thing for businesses or consumers. If you had been in the habit of upgrading office every three years or so, as Microsoft brought out new versions, an Office 365 subscription could end up being less expensive than the old purchase model, especially if you want to install the software on more than two computers or if you have a mixture of Windows PCs and Macs.

My main concern is with making sure the system works smoothly. When you subscribe to Office 365, the programs reside on your computer and there are no issues working offline. However, since Office is only licensed for as long as your subscription is current, it has to check your activation status with a server from time to time, and this process can go awry. Adobe, which has been checking activation status of its creative apps for years, has had occasional problems with activation servers that have led to software becoming temporarily unusable.

Another issue is what happens if the company from whom you rent your software goes out of business or stops supporting a product? Adobe recently did provide for permanent activation of some very old versions of Creative Suite for which it wanted to shut down the activation servers. It’s a far-fetched worry that Microsoft would ever leave Office users high and dry, but it is worth thinking about since you could end up  with unusable software and files in an unsupported format.

UPDATE: The policy of tying purchased copies of Office 2013 to a single computer forever met immediate resistance from customers and didn’t last long. In a March 6 post to the official Office Blog, Microsoft announced that purchasers would be allowed to transfer the software to a different computer and that the original purchaser of a copy of Office would be able to sell it, provided the purchaser agreed to the original terms and conditions. However, activation is still limited to one computer, not the two allowed for previous Office versions. (Tip of the hat to Ed Bott of ZDNet for flagging the change.)

Microsoft Office 2013’s Biggest Risk Could be its Visual Design

Microsoft Office has been the staple of productivity for years, particularly for businesses. Therefore, whenever big changes happen to the product, it’s a big deal. Literally millions of IT departments and users shoulder the burden to learn every new version in hopes of squeaking out every ounce of corporate productivity. Microsoft’s latest version is in preview, out for testing millions of current and some potential users, too. There has been a lot written about the risks on potential pricing and its cloud-first method, but I believe the biggest risk is in its visual design, which looks more like a free Google product than a rich app buyers pay $399 for.

clip_image002Whether the industry accepts it or not, Apple is leading the latest design wave as measured by what looks premium. Physically, Apple design is all about minimalism with brushed aluminum, blacks, whites and sweeping angles with as few connectors and buttons as possible. The software design language is connected to the hardware language as that same brushed aluminum and minimalism is brought to OSX and apps like Mail and Calendar. Some apps take on a style of real world objects like Contacts, Notes, Pages, Find Friends, Newsstand and Photo Booth with elements of paper, leather, wood and even fabric. I cannot say I am a huge fan of the real-life designs, but it hasn’t stopped me or millions from buying Apple products. Microsoft’s Metro is distinctly different.

Metro design is a sharp departure from Windows 7 and also very different from Apple. Being different is a good thing as long as it attracts who you are targeting. Metro is direct touch, air gesture and speech control first, mouse and keyboard second. It focuses on the content by adding a ton of white space, 90 degree angles, and multiple, bright colors. There are no ties to real-life metaphors in color, shape, or texture. Like many, I like Metro for phones, tablets and even the XBOX. Now Office, in Office  2013 adopts the Metro design, a sharp departure from Office 2010. After using Office 2013 for a week, this is unfortunately where my Metro design admiration stops. The interesting part is that I thought it looked fine in screen shots, but as I used it on my 23” display for a week, it felt lifeless and drab. It was hard to even sit in front of and use for a few hours and I believe many other users will have this challenge as well.

I must point out that the industry has lived through many Office design changes, and there has always been a lot of uproar.  This is nothing new.  Remember when the ribbon first came out?  Many said that would be the thing that drove people to the alternatives which didn’t happen.  I think this case could very well be different as many alternatives exist, primarily Apple and Google and with such a drastic design departure, users will need to relearn or become comfortable with something new.  At no time has Apple’s and Google’s office tools been such a viable alternative.  I do not bring bias into this conversation as I have been a committed Office user since its existence.  In fact, I bend over backwards to use it in that I pay a monthly fee to Google just so I can sync my Google contacts and calendar to Outlook.  Based on the design changes and the alternatives, I am considering the switch and am looking at Apple and Google right now.  While mine and other’s purchase criteria incorporate more than just design, I think it is vital as it’s what you will be staring at eight hours a day.

The Google Apps for Business design language is more similar to Office 2013 than to Office 2010. It is minimal and very blocky with few shadows and lines.  In some ways, it’s more minimal than even Office 2013 that still sports the full ribbon.

Apple’s Mail and Calendar are more like Office 2013, with depth and shadows but with a very minimal ribbon or header and has seamless connections to Google Mail and Calendar without a monthly fee.


So what does this mean to the success of Office 2013?  I believe Microsoft’s risk in enterprise is primarily with Google Apps for Business, but until Google can develop more robust spreadsheet scripting, increase presentation design  sophistication, and implement a more robust offline capabilities, it won’t make too big a dent in white collar professionals.  Employees who just need mail and calendar, Google is a big risk.  At $499-349 retail price, why would IT even think of doing this? And look at the Google design…. looks so similar now with Office 2013.  For small businesses, I believe Apple is the big risk to Microsoft Office 2013.  Included with every Mac, a user gets a full-fledged and robust email and calendar program and can users buy decent spreadsheet, presentation and word processors for  $19.99 a piece.  add to that they’re already  synced with iCloud and have optimized apps for the iPhone and iPad. Like me, users with Apple can also eliminate the monthly fee I pay for the Google Connector for Outlook.

It is a good time for consumers and businesses as even more choices are available than ever.  Now that the design has changed so much, now is the time to explore your options.

Microsoft Office: Way Too Early for Obituaries


Office logoIn recent days, it has become popular to herald the impending death of Microsoft Office and the doom of Microsoft itself as its cash cow heads for the slaughterhouse.

  • In a series of tweets, Duke business professor Vivek Wadhwa argued that Microsoft has become irrelevant, largely because tablets are the future and Office doesn’t run on them.
  • Minimalmac blogger Patrick Rhone argued that Microsoft’s failure to get Office on the iPad allowed people to realize they could get by very well with the Microsoft suite.
  • At TechCrunch, John Biggs maintains that a paradigm shift away from printing and paper is leading us into the “post-Office” generation.

Not so fast.

While these analyses are right about the long-term trends, I believe they drastically underestimate the importance of office in the daily life of business, government, and other large institutions. Consumers may be realizing that they no longer need Office–that, in fact, they never needed Office and would always have been better off with something lighter and simpler such as Apple’s iWork. This will hurt Microsoft some. But the company’s bread and butter is Office and its attendant backend services, such as Exchange and SharePoint, in the enterprise.

There are bad and good reasons for this. The really bad reason is the inertia and conservatism of large organizations. Government is the worst offender. It’s tough to see how agencies that still run mainframes that communicate with greenscreen 3270 terminals using Systems Network Architecture  and whose managers think they have mobilized their IT because they support BlackBerrys are going to dump Office anytime soon. It is very common, for example, for federal agencies to require that responses to requests for proposals be submitted as Word and Excel files.

The much better reason is that there is a world of of documents far more complex than web pages (or tablet apps.) And production of those documents requires the right tools. Word is used not out of inertia but because it includes a lot of features that cannot be found elsewhere. In an environment where documents pass through many hands on their way to complete, tracking changes (also called edit tracking or redlining) is essential if you ever need to know who made what edits. Complex documents need automatically generated tables of content, indexes, and, in the case of legal briefs, tables of authorities. Footnoting and bibliography flexibility is essential. Furthermore, many companies have a vast investment in custom Word stylesheets (Word calls them templates, but stylesheet is a more familiar term for HTML users.)

Alternatives like Google Docs don’t begin to cut it. Apple’s Pages comes closer, but even Apple doesn’t seem to regard iWork, which has not be updated in three years,  as a serious competitor to Office. OpenOffice, in its various incarnations, offers all the complexity of Microsoft Office in a much less user-friendly package.

For now, and for the foreseeable future, preparing documents for print is still tremendously important. Over time,  it will become less so, but endless scrolling web pages are not a viable alternative. We will be doing more and more of our reading on tablets. But tablets are going to need software that can create proper documents for them. Nothing does a very good job of this today, but it is hardly an insoluble problem and I expect Microsoft will address it in both the rumored Office for iPad and Windows 8 version of Office, expected late this year.

Word, of course, is only one component of Office. In environments where Microsoft Exchange is the back end for mails, contacts,  and calendaring and scheduling, Outlook remains the indispensable client. Yes, you can get Mac Mail to work with Exchange and Exchange is iCal-compatible, but accessing an Exchange Global Address List from Mac Address Book is somewhere between difficult and impossible, depending on the configuration of the Exchange server.

Excel lives in a league of its own. My guess is that the bulk of Office users don’t make much use of Excel and could undoubted get by with something much lighter, even the spreadsheet component of Google Docs. But for the legions of Excel power users, it is absolutely indispensable. and many companies have spent a lot of time and effort building Excel models that cannot be ported to anything else.

And what can I say about PowerPoint? I’ve always found it the weakest major component of Office, an adopted child who never quite got integrated into the family. Not to mention the agony of sitting through those presentations. For Mac users, Keynote is definitely a worthy competitor (how bad can a program designed by Steve Jobs keynotes be?). But huge numbers of enterprise workers will only give up PowerPoint when you wrest it away from them. For better or worse, mainly worse, it’s here to stay.

All of these are reasons why neither Office nor the computers needed to create documents of any complexity are going away. We may do our reading on tablets, but content creators will still be creating on Office. As long as that is the case, Microsoft will be a highly relevant, and almost certainly highly profitable, player.





















Microsoft’s Future in Tablets: Forget Consumers, Go for the Enterprise

Only huge a company with massive cash flow can make a mistake of the magnitude of Microsoft’s error in missing the movement from PCs to smartphones and tablets and survive as a major player. Legacy cash flows allowed IBM to recover from its errors of the late 1980s and the money flowing in from Windows and Office can do the same for Microsoft. But time is growing short. With the latest version of Windows Phone and its partnership with Nokia, Microsoft is at least making a play in smartphones. But it’s a long way from even playing in the increasingly important tablet market.

Apple iPads and Amazon Kindle Fires are flying off shelves now and even the justly criticized Android tablets could become attractive in coming months with a new version of the the operating system, Microsoft is at least a year away from tablets running Windows 8 on either Intel or ARM processors. But Microsoft has to make some critical decisions right now about what these tablets are going to be.

The first thing the company should recognize is that by the fall of 2012, the consumer market is likely to be lost. Over the next year, Apple is likely to sell at least 50 million iPads, Android tablets should gain traction, and Kindles and Barnes & Noble Nook Tablets will be gobbling up the low end of the market. In consumer markets, Microsoft is shooting at a moving taget that’s not moving in a favorable direction.

The enterprise market, on the other hand, is wide open. iPads have definitely been turning up in the enterprise in large numbers. And Apple has worked hard, including some quiet cooperation with Microsoft, to make the iPad play reasonably well in an enterprise environment dominated by Microsoft back-end services such as Exchange. But enterprises need more than Exchange mail, contacts, and calendar. They require support for all of Microsoft Office, including the SharePoint collaboration and document management service on which many enterprises depend, far better document handling than today’s tablets provide, and better ways to load and maintain custom applications.

Office is the key, and it is where Microsoft faces the hardest choices. The cool kids, startups, ands tech pundits may be happy with Google Apps or perhaps OpenOffice and emacs, but the fact is that business (and government) runs on Office. Documents are written in Word, numbers are crunched in Excel, presentations are shown in in PowerPoint, mail is read, meetings are scheduled, and calendars and contact lists are kept in Outlook. And it is all tied together with Exchange and SharePoint.

There have been large-scale corporate deployments of iPads, but as ancillary tools, not really as replacement for computers. For example, airlines have given thousands of iPads to pilots as replacements for the paper documents that used to fill their weighty flight bags. Tablets will remain in enterprise niches until they can offer reasonable support for corporate Office installations. This is unlikely to happen on iPad, even if rumors about some sort of Office version for the Apple tablet are true, and even less likely on Android, where the lack of standardization and built-in security are a huge barrier to enterprise adoption.

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The problem is just what does Office on a tablet mean? While Microsoft has been very transparent about the development of Windows 8, an accompanying new version of Office remains nothing but a bunch of fragmented rumors. It’s clear that a dramatically new version of Office is needed for tablets; five minutes spent with Office 2010 on a Windows 7 tablet will convince you of that. Making office work on a mouseless, keyboardless touch tablet is not a matter of tweaking the user interface–the UI most be radically rethought. Menus are the essence of Office, but menus are death in tablet apps. How many of Office’s existing features–thousands of them–could be supported in a  drastically simplified interface? How many can you lose before Office ceases to be useful for enterprises? (Few consumers care or know about Word’s Track Changes feature; enterprises cannot live without it.)

More needs to be done than just fixing the UI. The current Office is a multi-gigabyte resource-sucking monster. It’s probably an order of magnitude too big to be a reasonable fit on a tablet. Microsoft promises tablets running on both Inter and ARM processors. The current Office, particularly Outlook, is a slug on Intel Atom processors and a converted version would likely be even worse on ARM. Office has to become dramatically smaller and lighter without losing its essential character, a daunting task.

Maybe Microsoft is well along in solving all these problems, but they have been uncommonly quiet about the process. For a new Office to ship together with Windows 8, I’d expect to have seen a technical release by now and a large scale beta early next year. There have been rumors of a beta being made available at the consumer Electronic show in January. I hope so, but I am dubious.