Should Microsoft make Office available on iPad?

Microsoft Corp.’s (NASDAQ: MSFT) recent $900 million write down of its Surface RT tablet is one big good reason for the software company to consider making its productivity suite Office available on Apple Inc.’s (NASDAQ: AAPL) iPad and Android tablet devices, according to one analyst.

Such a move will insulate Office from the risk of users switching to alternative software, according to J.P. Gownder, principal analyst for research firm Forrester Research.
“(There) is a hidden danger of holding out office for iPad and Android tablets – competitors tend to fill the gap and users establish different habits,” wrote Gownder in his blog. “Microsoft’s problem: Workers and consumers are already exceptionally productive with their tablets.”
Last week, Microsoft reported revenues of $19.90 billion but also admitted it had to swallow a $900 million charge related to the disappointing sales numbers of its Windows Surface RT tablet.

A recent Forrester survey indicates that 86 per cent of information workers use either an iPad or Android tablet. Seventy five per cent of tablet users said using a tablet makes them more productive.

“Again, this is a largely iPad and Android crowd…and they’re already finding tablets productive without Microsoft office,” said Gownder. “By ceding ground to competing apps, Microsoft is encouraging users to investigate other platforms.”


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Many corporate tablet users and consumers are using Apple’s iWorks and QuickOffice Pro HD, which is now owned by Google (NASDAQ: GOOG).

Other apps such as Evernote and Slideshark “fill the niches for composition/note taking and slide presentations” and other iOS and Android apps are available for business-specific tasks.

Gownder proposed that Microsoft would be better off offering Office to users of competing tablet devices rather than pouring money on hardware like Windows RT.

For example if 10 per cent of the 140 million iPad users were to purchase Office at $99.99 a pop, Microsoft stands to earn $1.4 billion “or $500 million more than the Windows RT write down last quarter.”

“The bottom line is that protecting Windows RT by keeping Office of Apple’s iPad and Android tablets isn’t working,” said Gownder.

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