Microsoft Office for iPad: the right step, a bit late?
There was a time in my life where virtually everything to do with office productivity was connected to a Microsoft product: the OS on the PC, Outlook mail, Powerpoint for presentations and Word for documents. I was never a spreadsheet guy so my exposure to Excel was minimal. Even when I switched to a Mac, I relied heavily on PowerPoint, Outlook and Excel. And then something changed all that: iWork. I have been a user of Keynote for many years now and the need to use PowerPoint has virtually gone away. Ditto with mail. Once out of the corporate world, life went on with Gmail, Apple Mail and 3rd party applications like Airmail. Documents could always be managed with Pages or simple solutions like TextEdit. The advent of iPad in my life made me drift away from Microsoft even further with only an occasional of Microsoft Word. And oh, I used to detest the design of products like Windows XP, Windows 2000, Vista and Win 7. I used to think that while Outlook and Powerpoint were feature rich there was a certain something…let’s say elegant missing from them.
All this design bias went away when I saw and used Windows 8 on PCs and mobiles. Especially mobiles. I thought the metro UI was beautiful, elegant was refreshingly different from the cut & paste approach (in my opinion) of Android. Yes, I was annoyed with the Jekyll & Hyde approach in design on Windows 8, when it came to the shift from the metro UI to the almost Win-7 like environment for Microsoft Word and Powerpoint. So I have always dabbled with Windows 8 and never made it my primary device – did not really see it as a replacement for my Macbook.
In this context, I was happy to hear about the launch of Office for iPad. While I was curious, let’s just say I was not excited. I think the decision to bring PowerPoint, Word & Excel to the iPad is a good one. Microsoft finally accepts reality and goes where the consumer is. The iPad has been dismissed as a fad, a consumption-tool and a toy for games – for far too long. Fact is, a lot of ‘work’ related stuff – be it simply consuming or creating does get done on the iPad. And the consumer who has an iPad seems to have accepted the available solutions. iWork is now free (on new devices) and several other non-Microptions exist for presentations, documents & spreadsheets. I use iAWriter & Pages for documents and Keynote is my go-to application for presentations (I genuinely think it is much better than PowerPoint – far easier to use and the output looks superior, design-wise). So while I was happy & curious, I wasn’t exactly excited.
The designs of both Word and Powerpoint look great on the iPad. But the subscription fee of $99 p.a (for the full version) is likely to appeal to hardcore Office users who happen to have an iPad, rather than iPad users who need a document solution. There is nothing compelling in these products as yet which can convince me to pay $99 a year, when superior alternatives, for free. So it is about going where the consumers are but seems like a late move – the consumer has moved on from where she was.