Move over Apple, you got nothing on Microsoft’s Office


The last few days have been particularly interesting as we have seen three tablets fly up in the eyes of the public demanding all the attention they can. the two Windows tablets: the Microsoft Surfaces and Nokia’s Lumia 2520 are all around and just going about their business calmly. However, all that calmness ended when Apple held its iPad event where it unveiled its new iPads.

Not only that but they only took jibes aimed at making Microsoft look like the bad guy as far as software pricing goes. Apple is now putting all its productivity software out there for its customers for free. For starters, its operating system upgrade, OS X Mavericks is available at no extra cost; something totally ‘unApple’.

To nail it totally and attract the attention of the other guy, Apple went straight to war with Microsoft by not pricing its Office equivalent, iWork.

However, numbers released at least four days to the Apple announcement show that iWorks is not even a threat to Microsoft’s dominance of the office productivity space. As is known to everyone, Microsoft Office remains extremely extremely popular worldwide since it is not limited to just specific hardware as is the case with Apple’s software which is usually restricted to only its hardware.

Instead, even Mac users whom Apple has traditionally gone for with iWork, do love Office. They use Office. That is as far as individual users like me and you go. When you get to the enterprise level, Microsoft beats everyone hands down and is actually more threatened by Google’s Doc which has been steadily growing in terms of popularity and the simplicity and ease of use.

That’s why Microsoft countered with an even more solid option that lets you take Office wherever you go with a subscription to boot. Yes Apple did poke fun at Microsoft’s $99 per year subscription for Office 365 (I’m not the biggest fan of those bizarre charges either) but the popularity of Office and its efficiency in getting the job done cannot be understated. Though Microsoft needs to rethink its pricing since the numbers from Forrester research show that adoption of Office 2013 is yet to pick up as would have been expected.

Office suites productivity usage

Getting back to Apple’s cheap shot at Microsoft, Frank Shaw, the Corporate Vice President of Communications at Microsoft took time off to respond through a post on Microsoft’s official blog writing:

Seems like the RDF (Reality Distortion Field) typically generated by an Apple event has extended beyond Cupertino.

So let me try to clear some things up.

Note: If you are the TL;DR type, let me cut to the chase. Surface and Surface 2 both include Office, the world’s most popular, most powerful productivity software for free and are priced below both the iPad 2 and iPad Air respectively. Making Apple’s decision to build the price of their less popular and less powerful iWork into their tablets not a very big (or very good) deal.

Since we launched the Surface line of tablets last year, one of the themes we’ve consistently used to talk about them is that they are a terrific blend of productivity and entertainment in one lightweight, affordable package. In fact, we’re confident that they offer the best combination of those capabilities available on the market today.

That’s not an accident, it’s exactly what we set out to design. We saw too many people carrying two devices around (one for work and one for play) and dealing with the excess cost, weight and complexity that “dual carrying” entails. We believed that there was another, better way: A tablet built to offer great touch-based entertainment activities combined with a productivity powerhouse that helps people crank through the stuff they have to get done before they watch zombies or flick birds.

That’s what Surface is. A single, simple, affordable device that helps you both lean in and kick back. Let’s be clear – helping folks kill time on a tablet is relatively easy. Give them books, music, videos and games, and they’ll figure out the rest. Pretty much all tablets do that.

But helping people be productive on a tablet is a little trickier. It takes an understanding of how people actually work, how they get things done, and how to best support the way they do things already.

He goes on and on…

While as expected Shaw will drum up support for the devices and software they make at Microsoft, when objectively looked at, he has a point and the point is however much iWorks is free for use even on iOS devices like the iPads, the same devices don’t match the productivity that comes with having Office installed and operated on devices that were practically made for it.

You can argue with this but primarily iPads are so good at content consumption but content creation? I’m more inclined to say that a tablet like the Surface 2 Pro (never a fan of RT-based tablets) should be able to do it much better. Yes, there are very many professionals out there using iPads in their line of work for just about anything but for how long have iPads been around? How much longer have tablets with full fledged Office been around?

I am more interested however in hearing what Microsoft has to say about providing an operating system for free as Apple has done. I know that is holy territory since Windows is Redmond’s cash cow.

Oh, and here’s the parting shot from Shaw: when I see Apple drop the price of their struggling, lightweight productivity apps, I don’t see a shot across our bow, I see an attempt to play catch up.