The question that’s being bandied about by many different writers is whether Microsoft will bite the bullet and release Office Apps for Android and iOS.

There are some reasons not to do so and many reasons to go ahead already. It seem however, that just like most new products in the last few years, Microsoft will end up launching these apps using the “too-little, too-late” strategy.

Here’s the deal.  Office for Android and iOS tablets is money on the table for Microsoft.  If Redmond had a killer instinct, this product would have been launched two years ago and QuickOffice and the other wannabe Office Apps would be toast.

Instead, I fear they will release non touch-centric versions of Office 6 months down the road, which will be laughed at by the two markets they are trying to penetrate.

The thinking in Redmond must go something like this: “if we release great Office apps for Android and iOS tablets, then there’ll be less incentive for consumers to buy Windows tablets.”

Sounds convincing, right?  Wrong.  First of all, Office substitutes already exist, such as QuickOffice.  They allow their users to open, edit and save Office documents, with few problems.  They are also cheap (around $20 for QuickOffice) and effective.

Second, the assumption is being made that folks would trade in their iPads or Samsung Notes for more expensive, shorter-battery-life Surface Pros in order to have Office.  That not the way it works.  There need to be much more compelling reasons to shift from one ecosystem to another.

Third, the brutal reality is that Microsoft is very late to the tablet market anyway, and with only 3.2% of the market, victory (i.e., significant market share gains) are anything but assured.

That is why not making Office available on these other platforms is simply leaving money on the table. Of the 120-odd million tablets sold last year, if half of their owners bought $30 Office apps, we’d be looking at $1.8 billion.  Not too shappy.

So what’s the message to Redmond?  Release excellent Office apps for Android and iOS and make it snappy.  Not a crippled version, not a “College” version, but the full Monty – totally capable.

I say this because The Verge reports rumors and sightings of a reduced capability Windows, shown below.  They state:

Office Mobile will debut in the form of free apps that allow Android and iOS users to view Microsoft Office documents on the move. Like the existing SkyDrive and OneNote apps, Office Mobile will require a Microsoft account. On first launch, a Microsoft account will provide access to the basic viewing functionality in the apps. Word, PowerPoint, and Excel documents will all be supported, and edit functionality can be enabled with an Office 365 subscription.

Microsoft will allow iOS users to purchase an Office 365 subscription within the app, or let organizations distribute codes to enable Office Mobile editing for users. The apps will allow for basic editing, but we’re told this won’t go very far in attempting to replace regular full use of a desktop Office version.

 

I think this is just an awful idea and I hope it’s not true. Few Android or iOS users will bother with either the “viewing” app or the dumbed down one OR the prospect of subscriptions.  Just who thought this mess up?

Paradoxically a fully functioning, affordable Office App is likely to have positive spillover effects for Windows 8 tablets, or at the very worst, neutral.  My advice: Do it now and do it right, while there are still revenues to be had.

What do you think?

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