Microsoft Office for iPad could be a Surface RT killer (opinion)

Late last year, rumors surfaced that Microsoft Office would be available to iPhone and iPad users when Microsoft's Czech office announced that Office Mobile for Android and iOS would be coming in March 2013, allowing owners of Apple devices to purchase a subscription to Microsoft Office 365. But yesterday those rumors may have gotten doused with cold water.

Office for iOS

When asked by Bloomberg technology writer Ashlee Vance “How’s that Office for iPad coming along?” Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer tersely replied, “I have nothing to say on that topic. We’re very glad with the product, very happy with the product that we’re putting in market. It makes sense on the devices like the Mac and the PC. We have a product that we think makes a lot of sense. We do have a way for people always to get to Office through the browser, which is very important. And we’ll see what we see in the future.”

I agree with Mr. Ballmer. Microsoft Office does “make sense” on devices like the Mac and the PC; and it strengthens a device like the Surface RT, which, has yet to find its footing in the mobile marketplace. But to allow Office on Android and Apple tablets and phones at this point and time, doesn’t! To do so would only weaken sales of the Surface RT.

The Android and Apple tablet and phone markets dominate the mobile landscape, and it certainly makes sense for app developers, who want the largest possible dissemination of their products, to develop applications for them. But Microsoft doesn’t need Android and Apple to help saturate the market with Office products; and Steve Ballmer is fully aware of this. When asked by Ashlee Vance about going up against Dropbox, a company that already has 100 million users, Ballmer replied. “Well, you’ve got to remember, 100 million sounds like a pretty small number to me, actually. We’ve got a lot more Office users. And actually if you even want to go to the cloud, we have a lot of Hotmail and SkyDrive users. I’m not beating on Dropbox. They’re a fine little startup and that’s great.”

That Microsoft has not released sales figures for the Surface RT has only fueled speculation that its sales have been weaker than expected. And with the current weakness of the Windows Store, and the coming release of the Surface Windows 8 Pro, one would have to question a strategy that allows Microsoft Office, one of the primary selling points of the Surface RT, to be co-opted by its competition.

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