Microsoft Finally Gets the Word

By Samuel Greengard  |  Posted 2014-11-21 Email Print this article Print
Mobile version of Office

Microsoft recently announced that it has released a mobile version of Office that allows editing and links to external cloud services at no additional cost.

The transition from industrial age thinking to the digital economy has derailed more than a few organizations. One company that has struggled to adapt is software giant Microsoft. Like many companies, it drifted into a largely insular approach to its core business and, consequently, has found itself increasingly behind the digital 8-ball.

A glaring example of this is Office. Although it's possible to poke at the complexities of the product suite, Word, Excel and PowerPoint remain an impressive collection of tools for handling a remarkable array of tasks. What's more, they are the de facto standard for the business world.

However, Redmond somehow missed the memo about mobility. It took the firm four years to recognize that an iOS version of Office was a good idea—despite the fact that more than 225 million iPads are in use worldwide.

Then it compounded the mistake by attempting to demand an Office 365 subscription to do anything more than read files on an iPad—despite the fact that just about anyone with an iPad also uses Office on a personal computer. Meanwhile, iPhone users were stuck in a read-only world, even if they were willing to cough up the $100 annual subscription fee.

Instead of viewing a mobile version as a way to extend the use of Office and build a more entrenched user base and long-term revenues, it viewed the iPhone as a way to extract more money in the short term.

News flash: Microsoft recently announced that it has released a mobile version of Office that allows editing and also links to external cloud services, including Dropbox, at no additional cost. It's also possible to use its Office 365 or OneDrive services, but you're no longer locked into these subscriptions. Android versions of the mobile apps will follow.

The result was predictable, even if it took a long time for Microsoft to awake from a 1990s mindset and recognize the writing on the digital wall. Market dynamics increasingly dictate business models and functionality. A connected and cloud-filled world is very different from a desktop-centric workplace.

The takeaway? Whatever your company sells or does, it's critical to constantly rethink, remap and rewire. Innovation and adaptability are now the keys to business success. It's impossible to escape the physics of digital gravity.

Samuel Greengard writes about business and technology for Baseline, CIO Insight and other publications. His most recent book is The Internet of Things (MIT Press, 2015).

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