Microsoft Office has been THE application for Word Processing, Spreadsheets, and Email for business for many years. I’ll save a lot of time by stating that I don’t think there is a better product on the market. So with the rumors of Microsoft planning to release Office for iPad you would think I would be jumping for joy? I’m not … and I wonder who is.
Microsoft Office used to be for everyone
When I was young(er) everyone wanted a copy of Microsoft Office. You had to have it for school, work, or anything else you did. Scaled down versions came on every PC. Office was expensive but most people could find a way to own a copy. (If not, there was always Microsoft Works.)
Then it got expensive. As Office grew in complexity and businesses finally stopped using Word Perfect and Lotus Notes, the price of Office went up … and up … and up. Frankly, it got to the point where it was simply too expensive to buy a copy of Office. The non-profit and education companies I worked for could afford it because Microsoft gave generous price breaks but the small for-profit businesses started to struggle to pay when it became necessary to update from one version to the next.
Alternatives were born
Google Docs, when it started, had to be one of the worst word processors I had ever used. The spreadsheet was adequate but not awesome like Excel. GMail was frustrating because it wasn’t Outlook. Then the iPhone came out and Mac was popular again. Then the iPad comes out and the tablet revolution started. PC sales immediately dried up and tablet sales skyrocketed. Add Android phones and tablets to the picture and suddenly most people are using non-Microsoft systems for most of their non-work computing. I knew the world had changed when I saw more Macbooks at IT conferences than Windows laptops.
Microsoft Office did not work on any of these new devices. People started using alternatives. Google Docs, Evernote, Dropbox, Pages, etc. Suddenly there are hundreds of alternatives to Microsoft Office and people used them and have grown used to them.
Good enough is good enough
Microsoft Word is the best application for creating a printable document. But who does that anyway? Who creates memos to print and distribute? I don’t even own a printer anymore at home. At work, I find it almost insulting when I am asked to print something. Paper is SO last century. Word was designed for paper. Most of the alternatives were designed to work in the digital world … and they work just fine for most people.
Excel is still the best spreadsheet application out there but Google Sheets is catching up. I can do anything I need for home or work with it. Apple’s Numbers is frankly terrible but it works in a pinch. Only the accountants I work with need Excel. Everyone else is happy with whatever they can get on their iPad or Android device. People seem to have found that a free or very inexpensive application does everything they need as opposed to a $200 application that does everything.
Have people already moved on?
I admit, I have grown hostile to Microsoft over the years. They seemed to focus on Enterprise sized customers at the expense of the smaller companies I work for. I don’t like buying from businesses that don’t seem to value my business. So for me, I know I have moved on. I can live without Microsoft Office.
What about everyone else? Have we gotten so used to the apps we use as alternatives that we no longer need or want Microsoft Office? If Microsoft comes out with very inexpensive mobile versions of Office will people flock to it or will they stick with what they know?
If Office for iPad had come out five years ago, I think it would have been one of the most used apps today. As it stands, it is just another application in the long list of applications. Unless Microsoft can do something to win people back, I wonder if anyone outside of corporate old-timers will use it.