The first press briefing by Microsoft’s new CEO, Satya Nadella, allowed the world to get a good look at Steve Ballmer’s replacement and also to digest the news that the much rumoured development of Office for iPad is a reality.
The new free apps – Word, Excel and PowerPoint along with the previously released OneNote – quickly took the top spots in Apple’s AppStore and 4 days ago Microsoft announced 12 million downloads on Twitter.
Reaction has been mixed but tending towards the positive. The apps have been written from scratch for the iPad format. This means an interface optimised both for touch and for the limited space available on a tablet with the on-screen keyboard enabled. The result is a polished and feature rich experience.
A key topic of on-line discussion has been the need to have an Office 365 subscription for editing content. Many of the criticisms take issue with having to shell out £79.99 a year. This is understandable when Apple provides an adequate alternative for free in iWork. It is only part of the picture, however. An Office 365 subscription is good for 5 desktops (including Macs) and 5 mobile devices. So it allows a subscriber to unify their productivity experience across their whole family’s devices.
In the business world Office 365 subscriptions make yet more sense. Microsoft still rules the enterprise desktop and an Office 365 subscription ensures a productivity experience consistent with the incumbent technology across all devices. Accessing your documents, spread sheets and presentations in a familiar environment prevents the significant expense incurred by moving to a new technology.
What is surprising about Microsoft’s announcement is that it seems likely to impact sales of their own Surface tablet (which have been abysmally slow in comparison to growth in that market as a whole). Keeping Office off the iPad was supposed to stimulate sales of the Surface tablet where Office was bundled for free.
When you take into account the additional announcements in the Nadella press conference, and the subsequent announcement that Windows will now be free for all devices with screen sizes less than 9″ you get a bigger picture of the extent of change happening within Microsoft.
It is early days and I’m still reserving my ultimate judgement (Microsoft have been so frustratingly disappointing in the past) but right now I am getting a good feeling about Microsoft’s future. The recent announcements show that Microsoft can give their customers what they want. They have a vision that makes sense in this post-PC cloud-centric world. Most of all, they continue to offer a product set that has the power to enhance and impact the efficiency of the modern business. Let’s hope they can keep this momentum up.
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