Mar 19, 2014

Does an Office on the iPad Break Windows?

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Image source: hamza62240 and wiatrP1

If you’ve got an iPad, there’s a good chance you love it. But that doesn’t mean you can use it much for work.

That’s because there’s also a good chance you rely on Microsoft Office—the suite of applications that includes PowerPoint, Microsoft Word, Outlook and Excel—and it’s not available on the iPad. This is despite estimates from people like Morgan Stanley analyst Adam Holt, who figures that offering Office on Apple’s mobile platform could quickly earn Microsoft a hefty $2.5 billion.

Given that, rumors keep circulating that Microsoft will give in and start offering Office on the iPad—possibly as soon as next week. But at least so far, it hasn’t. Why not?

Well, as Steve Ranger of ZDNet wrote recently, it’s a fraught decision that’s “about Microsoft’s soul” and “about deciding Microsoft’s place in a new world.” In a way, it involves waving the white flag.

“By offering Office on the iPad, Microsoft would be effectively acknowledging that Apple had won: It would be an admission that Windows 8 tablets—including its own Surface Pro—had failed to grab market share,” Ranger asserted. “In turn, this would signify that the tenure of Windows as the default platform for enterprise customers and consumers is over.” Hence Microsoft’s apparent mulling and agonizing.

On the bright side, agonizing is usually good policy. As Peter Drucker liked to note, making good decisions on important matters like a company’s place in the world requires that we ask some simple but difficult questions (ones that are very familiar to readers of this blog): What is our business? Who is our customer? What will—and should—our business be? Otherwise, as Drucker warned in Management: Tasks, Responsibilities, Practices, a company “cannot rationally change itself.”

Since making Office available on the iPad might involve scaling down ambitions for its own offerings, meaning some degree of abandonment, Microsoft must examine all of its “products, services, processes, markets, end uses and distribution channels” and ask the following, according to Drucker: “Are they still viable? And are they likely to remain viable? Do they still give value to the customer? And are they likely to do so tomorrow? Do they still fit the realities of population and markets, of technology and economy? And if not, how can we best abandon them—or at least stop pouring in further resources and efforts?”

And then the company should act on the answer, Drucker added, or even the best definition of the purpose of the business “will remain a pious platitude.”

What do you think of the idea of Microsoft offering Office on the iPad?

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