“So, did you hear about that great new touch optimized version of Microsoft office that came out? You know, that one that’s getting rave reviews? The one that sent Microsoft rocketing to the top of the charts in the app store? That’s the one. You haven’t heard about it? Well, why is that? Oh. Because you’re using a Windows tablet. Sorry about that. Forget I said anything.”
Did that seem weird to anyone else? Maybe it felt weird on a few different levels. Totally understandable. Because it seemed weird to me, even as it happened, and even as it’s about to happen again. You’ve probably heard the news by now, but just in case you haven’t, Microsoft is bringing the aforementioned touch-optimized suite of Office software to Android in the near future. This is great because there’s a pretty big market of Android tablet-toters out there, so it’ll be good to have the software on all three of the major platforms. Wait, what?
Yes, that’s right. Microsoft released a touch-optimized version of Office for the iPad. Then it’s going to release the highly praised, touch-optimized version of Office for Android. Then and only then will Microsoft get around to releasing it’s software for its own platform – Windows. This bears repeating – Wait, what?
Doesn’t it seem odd to anyone else that “mobile first, cloud first” Microsoft is leaving its Windows RT, a.k.a. its mobile users stuck with the original version of Microsoft Office? Doesn’t it seem just slightly crazy that Windows – a Microsoft product – is last in line to receive a new version of Office – also a Microsoft product?
History is not on its side
This is one of the most irrefutable arguments against Windows as a mobile platform is that Microsoft doesn’t support the “mobile” part of that. Windows 8 is, as Taylor Martin put it recently, “disjointed” and this is due in large part to Microsoft’s historical absolute failure to commit to a 100% mobile experience. Arguably, the Modern interface was designed with mobile in mind, and yet the Desktop remains. Not only that, but Microsoft’s own product still does not support the modern mobile interface.
On the one hand, it makes perfect sense for Microsoft to release iPad versions of Microsoft Office. There clearly was, and is, demand for it. It’s at the top of the App Store for a reason. Plus, in order to release a version of the software for the iPad, it had to make it touch optimized because the iPad is a touch device. Novel concept right?
Go where the money is
So Microsoft can be forgiven in that respect. iPad has far more market share than all other tablets combined, so it went where the money was. I get that. Overall, that’s a good thing for Windows fans because Microsoft being successful is a win. It makes me wonder though if Apple is laughing its head off at us considering in the world of PCs the software situation is very much the opposite.
But Android getting touch-optimized Office before Windows is a bit of a slap in the face. But it’s not a total loss. After all, Windows RT ships with a full version of Office installed. Android tablets do not. So it might just be a matter of filling the market share holes. If that’s the case, I can understand that. I don’t necessarily have to like it, but I can understand that. Lest we forget that Microsoft’s “mobile first” strategy includes iOS and Android. Microsoft is and always really was a software company, not a hardware company.
And speaking of the full version of Office shipping with Windows RT, that’s a pretty big deal in and of itself. Frankly, given a choice between the full version of Office and the touch-optimized (and lighter weight) Office, I can’t say for sure I know which one I’d pick. The iPad version of office does not have the full function of the version that comes with Windows RT, but most of the good stuff is there. I’m more of a “better to have it and not need it” kind of guy. The fact that I’m arguing about what amounts to a downgrade needs to be acknowledged.
So, it is a bit of a catch twenty two. You want Microsoft to grab up as much of the market as it can, but at the same time, you’re not feeling so good about being left behind. But maybe if you’re a Windows Phone fan too you’re used to it. I know I am. You wouldn’t think a touch-optimized version of Office for Windows would be that hard. The developers already have the design and function down. That’s a huge part of the battle. It’s not like Microsoft has a new programming language to learn – or at least I hope not…
At the end of the day, I can understand why Microsoft is doing what it’s doing. It is just going where the money is and who can blame it for that. I’m just hoping that sooner, rather than later Microsoft realizes that “Mobile first, cloud first” also includes Windows.