I have no idea what took them so long, but Microsoft finally unveiled Office for iPad today. I've been saying that they've been missing out for a long time by not having Office on iPad—but I didn't had a blog before, so I have no way to prove it—much like I felt Blackberry waited too long to take BBM cross-platform. I realize that it is a very difficult decision to take one of your biggest exclusive selling features and open it up to competing platforms, thus possibly eliminating a major reason for consumers to stay on your platform, but you have to recognize where the market is going. If you don't act fast enough, you can end up like BBM and get overtaken by WhatsApp or iMessage.
I remember a brief holdout period where friends of mine wouldn't get rid of their Blackberries because of BBM. It really was ahead of its time. But, eventually enough momentum built on iPhone and Android that the BBM holdouts switched and most of them use iMessage, or WhatsApp if they are talking cross-platform. Has anyone heard that WhatsApp was sold to Facebook for $19 billion recently? By the time that BBM was released for iOS and Android it was no longer a leader in mobile messaging or a must-have app.
Back to Microsoft, I'm not saying that they are in nearly as dire straights as Blackberry was—still is—but I think there are some parallels nonetheless. The iPad has been on the market for about 4 years and in that time people have managed to get along okay without Office on their iPad. Maybe they're using Apple's Numbers, Pages and Keynote. Maybe they're using Google Drive's cloud documents offering. I think Microsoft thought keeping Office off of the iPad would draw more people to their Surface tablets, but that didn't work out well for them. The difference between Microsoft and Blackberry is that Office is still so entrenched in the enterprise market and Microsoft is much more diverse than Blackberry ever was. Windows and Office are still their big money makers (more than 50% of revenue combined, with Office at about 30%), but they have their server business, and their entertainment and devices division, as well. My fear for Microsoft is that Windows, Office and devices (non-Xbox) are all tied together. As more computing goes mobile, then less people are using Windows and all of a sudden Office isn't as ubiquitous. I've said before that I think their future lies in the server side of the business. I still think that's the case. Windows mobile really isn't getting traction in either smartphones or tablets and the PC market has started to retract. They might be in bigger trouble than most people think right now.
I think they're next mistake is pricing, and it will be interesting to see if and when they decide to revise their strategy. The apps are free to download, but that only allows you to read or present with them. If you want to create or modify anything, you need an Office 365 subscription, which starts at $100 per year for Home Premium and goes up from there for businesses. I don't think that will fly when Apple's apps are free and so is Google Drive. I will wait anxiously to see how that works out for them. The next few years will be very interesting where Microsoft is concerned.