App competitors unafraid of Microsoft’s Office for iPad

by David Needle

March 26 2014

Shown above a mock image of Office for the iPad. Microsoft's expected to unveil the real thing this week.
Shown above a mock image of Office for the iPad. Microsoft's expected to unveil the real thing this week.

Watch out Office competitors -- here comes Microsoft. The software giant is expected to announce the long-awaited (some would say overdue) Office for iPad Thursday, jolting the market for Office alternatives on Apple’s best-selling tablet. 

But if competitors are scared, several that TabTImes spoke to are putting up a good front that things will remain business as usual. And Microsoft’s move should hardly be a great surprise, iPad for Office has been rumored in development for at least two years and the delay in its release seemed more strategic than technical.

Specifically, it’s believed Microsoft didn’t want to release Office for iPad because it would remove a key advantage Windows tablets have - the ability to run Microsoft’s suite. That position seems to have changed with the ascension of Satya Nadella earlier this year.

Competitors like office apps provider hopTo have been expecting the move.

We’ve always operated under the assumption that Microsoft would eventually release a true touch-enabled, mobile version of Office, and were actually expecting it to happen last year,” said hopTo’s CEO Eldad Eilam.

He says hopTo has been designed as a “mobile productivity platform” not just an alternative to Office.

“Everything we’ve heard about Office for iPad so far suggests that it would essentially be an Office document editor with OneDrive integration and little else,” he says. “If that’s the case, it may not end up being the game changer some people expect it to be.”

CloudOn CEO Milind Gadekar also doesn’t see Office for iPad as a game changer - at least anything that’s going to change his company’s strategy.

“The future of mobile productivity is more than just Office on the iPad,” he said. “It is a comprehensive solution which connects to all your cloud storage services, provides a functionally rich authoring experience, and coupled with all the sharing and social capabilities needed by today's workforce.”

He also said Office for iPad will have no impact on his company’s plans to “redefining the future of mobile productivity” and that CloudOn has “some exciting announcements” of its own planned for later this Spring.

(For more iPad news, trends, apps and reviews, sign up for the free TabTimes for iPad newsletter)

Competition or complimentary? 

Andy Zimmerman, CMO of Brainshark, which makes the Slideshark app for showing and sharing Powerpoint slides on the iPad, is more positive in his assessment of Microsoft’s entry. 

“Having Office 365 on the iPad is welcome news – finally addressing users’ needs to create and edit Office documents, including PowerPoints, right on their device,” he said.

He said Slideshark is positioned as complementary to Powerpoint and will offer value regardless of what Microsoft does.

“We don’t expect Office on the iPad to adversely affect demand. While there will be some overlap with Office 365, which requires a paid subscription, when it comes to viewing PowerPoints, users all over the world also rely on SlideShark for its many free and premium features – such as presentation sharing, tracking and live broadcasting – that go beyond what PowerPoint offers.”

Eilam also commented on Microsoft’s likely pricing plans.

“Our assumption is that Office for iPad will be bundled into the Office365 subscription, which would put Office for iPad on the high end of the pricing scale for mobile users,” he said “We don’t expect Microsoft to offer a ‘Buy’ button anywhere on their app, because we find it unlikely that they would agree to share their revenues with Apple.”

(See our Office for iPad review)

CloudOn’s Gadekar says whatever Microsoft announces it’s about time. 

“We have anticipated this for a while and welcome that Microsoft is validating that the PC is dying and the future is in IOS and Android tablets/phones.”

Asked about Microsoft's expected announcement, Maribel Lopez of Lopez Research said she thinks it has the potential to deal a serious blow to Office wannabes on the iPad, at least when it comes to the enterprise.
 
“If Microsoft comes out with something great, why wouldn’t wouldn’t a company go with that, it’s such a standard," she said. “These other products have all these other capabilities and that’s great, but what most knowledge workers want is Word, PowerPoint and Excel on their mobile device."

(Tablets 2.0, how tablets are becoming more productivity devices and even a viable replacement to notebooks, will a key part of the discussion at the Tablet Strategy conference in New York on May 6, 2014). You can see the agenda here)

David Needle is Editor of TabTimes and based in Silicon Valley
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