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Published on June 14th, 2013 | by David Johnson


Microsoft Releases Office 365 for the iPhone, Just Say No



At least the product is well named. That is because 365 days is the frequency you will have to keep paying for the app. It is also the number of dollars you will pay every three and two-thirds years. That might well be the most expensive, free app you will ever buy outside of freemium games. Let me be very clear, you will not be able to use this app without a $99 per year subscription for Microsoft Office 365. This is a companion app for that service, and is not compatible with any other version of office.

Lately, Microsoft has made a great deal of noise about the iPad being a gimped experience without Microsoft Office. It led to many people speculating that Microsoft changed its mind about porting their cash cow to a competing platform. Such a move, or lack thereof, would be crazy for a company like Microsoft. They make software that runs on all platforms. Word was originally Mac Software that made its way to Windows. But times have changed, and Microsoft wants to sell hardware that is platform specific. Redmond’s software strategy is currently in a state of flux.

Right now, Microsoft is between a rock and another rock. If they keep Office as a Windows exclusive, they will be locked out of the largest, mobile platforms in the world. That would be iOS and Android. The world’s favorite PC: the iPad, would never have a Microsoft branded Office application, thus consigning Office to its proper fate of irrelevance. If they port Office to the most popular mobile platforms, that would consign Microsoft’s platform initiative to its proper destiny of irrelevance. I see no victory scenario for Microsoft on the mobile platform front. And apparently, neither do they.

I have no doubt that Microsoft has an iPad version ready to go. But they couldn’t just release it lest it made their current ad campaign look stupid, well, stupider than it already does. Yet, when it comes to mobile, their own platforms are practically non-existent. Their compromise was to put office on the iPhone. It still gives them access to the most popular smartphone in the world. Unfortunately, it is also a platform where people are least likely to use any kind of traditional, productivity application. Even with the best productivity suite for mobile, creating and editing a document, spreadsheet, or presentation is a chore on a smartphone screen. What’s worse, Microsoft’s offering is far from the best mobile productivity suite.

For that honor, you need look no further that Apple’s iWork. For $10 each, you can buy Pages, Numbers, and Keynote. That gets you word processing, spreadsheets, and presentation software. That is $30 for infinite use, vs. $99 every year for Office. Better still, if all you want is a word processor, you can get it with iWork. At $10, it is an even better value comparison. However, value is not just about price, but function. Unfortunately for Microsoft, they lose there as well.

I have not used Office 365 for iPhone myself, nor will I ever. But others have. Embedded at the top of this post is a video done by the Verge. Their Microsoft expert couldn’t make the application look either intuitive or useable. Your milage may vary, but I doubt it. One of the big signs that things have gone terribly wrong with this app is that Microsoft completely ignores the iPhone native method of selecting text. That means that some of your basic, interface conventions that you are used to on the iPhone will not apply to this app. On its own, that is a deal-breaker.

According to the Verge report, Microsoft has no plans to make an iPad version. I consider that a good thing. I also consider this a good excuse to re-review the iWork suite. That is a productivity app that you can actually use to, you know, be productive. Look for it in the coming days. As for Microsoft’s Office 365 for iPhone, just say no.

David Johnson


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