When I first started doing law office technology tips, bashing Microsoft was an easy way to get laughs. Most lawyers used WordPerfect and viewed changing to the less-powerful Microsoft Word as completely illogical. And most importantly, there was no reveal codes feature. The legal community loved reveal codes as a quick and easy way to fix most any document formatting problem. My friend, ace technology consultant Ross Kodner, gained quite a bit of notice with his email signature tag-line "Friends don't let friends word process without Reveal Codes." I think Ross was the first one I heard get a great laugh from an audience by saying Microsoft should have named email program Outlook as Lookout instead. Back then the first major computer security threats like viruses came to users via Microsoft Outlook.
Today WordPerfect has a much smaller market share and Microsoft Word is a very powerful tool. But many lawyers still use WordPerfect and the folks at WordPerfect continue to make great outreach to and discounts for the legal community. There is no doubt most business users use Microsoft Office.
But a whole lot of people also use iPad and Android tablets. Common questions I get from lawyers are "How can I edit Microsoft Words document on my iPad?" or "When will Microsoft release Office for the iPad?" Many greeted the announcement a few days ago of the release of Office Mobile for Office 365 for the iPhone as a step in the right direction. While that will prove useful for some, it actually signals Microsoft digging in its heels in its refusal to release Office Mobile for the iPad. (And of course it requires a paid subscription to Office 365, which many users are not ready to do.) Why iPhone only? Well, most of us who watch such things believe it is a triumph of corporate strategy and internal politics over service to its users.
That's consistent with the history and corporate culture of Microsoft. The corporation has always focused on world domination and destroying rivals rather than merely outselling them. The idea that Microsoft will pass on the billions to be made from sales of Office for the iPad (rumored to be largely completed, but shelved) just to prop up sales of the Surface Pro, Windows RT and even Windows itself seems a bit crazy. Well, Bill Gates and his minions are all a lot smarter than me, but they are just flat out wrong here. I don't even think that they are making the right decision for Microsoft and its shareholders. Check out this piece, Microsoft sticks it to the iPad with Windows-first Office strategy from ComputerWorld.com for a behind-the-scenes look. It makes sense to me that the Office team just lost to the Windows team in Microsoft internal decision-making because of power and not strategy. As noted in the article, Windows RT seems to be really losing steam.
So Microsoft is still crazy after all these years, taking a world domination approach more like Star Trek's The Borg rather than a smart strategy from the dominant company that it is.
Of course, I often edit Microsoft Word Documents on my iPad. I know how. What this move really does is convince iPad users to stop waiting on Microsoft (if they haven't already) and look at the Microsoft Word editor alternatives.
So this is really good news for products like Quickoffice Pro HD for iPad ($19.99), recently acquired by Google, Documents to Go® ($9.99 for basic and $16.99 for Premium) and CloudOn (free but cloud-based with Internet access required to operate.) The danger for Microsoft is that when it finally gets around to releasing Microsoft Office for iPad, no one will care. I also think Office 365 will be a difficult sale to legal professionals for a while. The legal community is accepting secure, cloud-based services, but being required to keep all word processing documents in the cloud seems like too much for many.
Apple also announced that later this year IWork for iCloud will be released, providing another alternative to Office 365.
Maybe Microsoft just wants to share the wealth with its competitors. Yes, the sound you hear is pigs flying with Paul Simon singing in the background, Still Crazy After All These Years (YouTube.)