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Apple Earnings: Sizing the Office for iPad Opportunity

A good portion of the Microsoft channel is already involved with management, integration and app development for the Apple iOS ecosystem.

With the rollout of the long-awaited Office for iPad in late March, Microsoft finally created a clear bridge for its partners between the Microsoft world that they know well and the huge customer demand for business apps on the world's most dominant tablet.

On an earnings call last night, Apple executives provided some metrics and context that clarified how potentially huge that iPad opportunity could be for Microsoft partners.

Apple CEO Tim Cook, who Tweeted a welcome when Microsoft brought Office to the App Store, enthused some more in response to a financial analyst's question.

"There [are a lot] of alternatives out there from a productivity point of view, some of which we brought to the market, some of which many, many innovative companies have brought," Cook said first in a nod to Apple's own Keynote, Pages and Numbers and the numerous apps that sprang up to meet demand for Office compatibility as former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer played Hamlet on whether Office should be or not be in the App Store.

"But I do see that Office is still a very key franchise in the enterprise, in particular. And I think having it on iPad is good, and I wholeheartedly welcome Microsoft to the App Store to sell Office. Our customers are clearly responding in a good way that it's available. So I do think it helps us particularly in the enterprise area," Cook said (quotes courtesy of the Seeking Alpha transcript).

As for Microsoft's lengthy wait before bringing Office to the iPad, Cook was critical. "I believe if it would have been done earlier, it would have been even better for Microsoft, frankly."

Timing aside, an opportunity for Microsoft is an opportunity for Microsoft partners. Some of the numbers and anecdotes shared during the Apple earnings call illustrated what a whopper of an opportunity Office on iPad could be.

First, there's the installed base, which presents opportunities for new Office 365 subscription sales and for new conversations to make sure existing customers are using their subscriptions to light up the free Office for iPad apps.

That installed base is huge. Cook said that Apple has sold 210 million units in the four years since launching the iPad. There was some concern about a sales drop in iPad units from the year-ago quarter to this one, but Apple executives explained most of it away as a channel backlog issue with iPad sell-through trending at nearly the same pace as the year before. Meanwhile, Apple had some very strong numbers to report from emerging markets. Apple probably won't be as dominant in tablets in the next few years, but it is likely to remain dominant for a while.

All those iPads, iPad Airs and iPad minis aren't just sitting in people's living rooms, either. Cook claimed 98 percent of Fortune 500 companies use iPad in some capacity and said, "According to Good Technology, who looks at activation of tablets, the latest data we have from them is that 91 percent of activation of tablets in enterprise were iPads."

There's more than a breadth opportunity in Office 365 subscriptions. All along, some partners have taken advantage of the general iOS development opportunity. Now that opportunity is greatly expanded by the ability to create custom corporate apps that integrate with Office -- something that's right in many Microsoft partners' wheelhouse.

That depth was evident as Luca Maestri, vice president of finance and corporate controller for Apple, read through a laundry list of huge customers using iPads. The raw numbers deployed were impressive, such as 20,000 iPads at Eli Lilly and 11,000 units at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. The Eli Lilly example was especially interesting because the company has deployed 50 internal apps as part of a laptop replacement program. (Some enterprises have similarly huge iOS internal app counts primarily for iPhone: 40 at Deutsche Bank and 50 for Siemens.)

The amount of repeatable business that could be available to partners who successfully develop IP and best practices around custom iOS apps leveraging Office for iPad is potentially massive.

Having a clean version of Office available for iPad makes the Microsoft partner opportunities much clearer, and Apple's impressive ability to keep driving huge volumes of tablet sales makes those clear opportunities big.

Posted by Scott Bekker on April 24, 2014 at 11:07 AM0 comments


Microsoft Offers Partners SureStep into Cloud

Microsoft on Monday unveiled the latest results of its eternal tinkering with the machinery designed to get partners selling cloud.

In a blog post, Thomas Hansen, vice president of Small and Medium Business for Microsoft Worldwide SMS&P, revealed Cloud SureStep, a business advice and tools program with three pillars based on the maturity level of a partner's cloud business.

"We've heard from many of you that moving your business to the cloud has presented a number of challenges, such as making the initial move with the least impact, knowing where to go for assistance and maximizing business efficiency once you're migrated," Hansen wrote.

The idea of Cloud SureStep is a "one-stop resource built within our MPN website," Hansen said. The three parts of Cloud SureStep are Getting Started, Grow Your Cloud Business and Optimize Your Cloud Business.

Getting Started includes IDC market overviews, pointers to videos about profitability and links to the Online Services Advisor incentives guide and other resources. The Grow Your Cloud Business section includes information on earning a competency or joining the SMB Cloud Champions Club. The Optimize section focuses on differentiation through offerings of multiple Microsoft cloud and/or on-premise products together.

Hansen said Cloud SureStep is beginning with Office 365 and Windows Intune and will add resources for Microsoft Azure and Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online in the next few months.

The Cloud SureStep page is here.

Posted by Scott Bekker on April 21, 2014 at 1:32 PM0 comments


Kaseya Rebrands as 'IT Management Cloud Company'

Kaseya, the midmarket-focused systems management company that counts MSPs as a major part of its customer base, is rebranding itself as the IT Management Cloud Company.

President and CEO Yogesh Gupta discussed the rebranding with RCP in a telephone interview this week from Kaseya Connect, the company's gathering of customers and partners in Las Vegas.

Gupta announced the rebranding and updated the company's product roadmap at the show.

"Management is happening more and more in the cloud," Gupta said. He described cloud management for Kaseya as having two meanings. One refers to management technology existing as a cloud service. The other has to do with integrating the management of third-party online services into Kaseya's offerings. Gupta mentioned several prominent examples of cloud services that customers need to have managed, including Microsoft's Azure, Amazon Web Services and Office 365, a suite Kaseya took a major step to manage last year with the acquisition of 365 Command.

Kaseya CEO Yogesh Gupta at Kaseya Connect. (Source: Kaseya)

Kaseya's new cloud vision represents another major initiative in the energetic tenure of Gupta, a former executive at CA and Fatwire Software who joined Kaseya in June when Insight Venture Partners invested in the company. In his first few months at Kaseya, Gupta introduced a new agile development process and oversaw the acquisitions of Rover Apps, Zyrion Inc. and 365 Command.

Gupta promised that although the cloud orientation is now strategic for Kaseya, no MSPs or midmarket customers will be forced to move from Kaseya's traditional on-premises tools until they're ready.

"My goal is to not force our customers to move off of the on-prem platform at all. The capabilities of what we offer in the cloud versus on-prem will be the same," Gupta said. "We will make it so I think they will want to move there. I don't see us forcing our customers. I actually think that they'll be pulled."

Some of the benefits Gupta said cloud platform customers will see include rapid and seamless security updates, a reduction in costs due to eliminating hardware and software licensing for on-premises management suite deployments, and the ability to view anonymous, aggregate performance data from other Kaseya customers that will provide early warnings on geographical issues or broadband service provider outages. At the same time, Gupta said Kaseya will work to protect MSP and customer investments in agent procedures, scripts and other customizations by providing upgrade paths to the cloud versions.

As for being pulled to the cloud, Gupta offered Kaseya itself as an example. "In the second half of 2013, more than 60 percent of new customers chose our cloud platform [versus on-premise] to run the IT management platform itself. Kaseya in the cloud is gaining tremendous momentum. More than 20 percent of our customers worldwide are using the cloud offering even though [Kaseya's cloud offering] has only been around for a few years," he said.

In the meantime, Kaseya is sticking to its newly aggressive release schedule. Fresh off the Jan. 31 release of Kaseya Virtual System Administrator 6.5, the company released a detailed roadmap for a 7.0 release by the end of May, an 8.0 release by the end of September and a 9.0 release by January 2015.

A Kaseya roadmap document with details on features planned for each release is available here.

Posted by Scott Bekker on April 17, 2014 at 1:17 PM0 comments


Partner Has High Hopes for SQL Server 2014's In-Memory Technology

One Australian Microsoft partner has big plans for clients around SQL Server 2014, but he won't be citing the technology by name in sales discussions.

Tony Nicol, managing director at Servian, shared his views on SQL Server 2014 in a video discussion with Phil Sorgen, corporate vice president of the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Group, that was posted on Sorgen's Channel Chief blog Tuesday.

"With its focus on in-memory technology, it allows the client to quite simply do more with less," Nicol said of SQL Server 2014. "Clients are getting to the edge of their processor capability or their user responsiveness. Many of them are having to do big, big infrastructure upgrades that they'd really rather push off, particularly when cloud computing is more readily available to them."

Nicol said the in-memory capability of SQL Server 2014 could delay infrastructure upgrades for many years. "With the three- or four-time performance increase that you're going to get, it's an economic game changer, particularly when they can see what's coming over the next period."

Servian, with offices in Sydney and Melbourne, will also be looking ahead as it steers customers to SQL Server 2014. Microsoft will be spinning up local Azure services in Australia in the near future, Nicol said, and he expects SQL Server 2014's flexibility for moving workloads from on-premises to the cloud to be a type of investment protection.

"It allows many of our clients to upgrade right now with all the benefits they're going to get from 2014, and then simply migrate to the cloud-ready cousin when it's available later this year. That's a massive risk-mitigation exercise in itself that's worth the upgrade," he said.

Although he's looking forward to all those benefits, plus the unification of the codebase between SQL Server's OLTP and data warehousing systems, he doesn't plan to pitch the technology.

"As good as we think SQL Server 2014 is, the client, which to us is often marketing and sales people, they don't actually care. They care about the solutions that we can provide. We listen to what they need, we know the price-performance point that they've got to meet, and then we give them the right solution," Nicol told Sorgen.

Posted by Scott Bekker on April 16, 2014 at 9:32 AM0 comments


A Short Manual for Channel Chiefs from a Former Microsoft Exec

Being a channel chief at an IT company is a tough job with a lot of moving parts, but now there's a manual.

Ross Brown, a former senior Microsoft channel executive, wrote a blog entry this week called "The 6 Roles of a Channel Chief," which presents a nice breakdown of the many varied duties of a channel chief.

Brown is a senior principle at the Spur Group. Previously, he was vice president of worldwide partner strategy at Microsoft, and held senior channel roles during both Allison Watson's and Jon Roskill's tenures as channel chief at Microsoft. Brown has also held senior management roles at Citrix, IBM and eEye Digital Security.

"The scope of the channel chief is more akin to being the CEO of Partners than a divisional leader. Your domain crosses into many of your peers' realms and the role requires skills that may be beyond the capability of any one leader," Brown wrote.

Brown's definition of the six roles are a sales leader, a marketing leader, an operational leader, a leader in product strategy, a risk minimizer and an advocate for partners.

He makes especially salient points in the product strategy section: "Good technology is the ante for the channel business to start and being an active voice on product direction and strategy is a core role for a channel chief. The reason behind this is that you represent a critical voice into the product equation -- features that customers may not value may be valued highly by partners, and you represent that partner perspective."

I'm less persuaded by his view that a partner program should be run like a P&L -- with internal use rights and other benefits balanced against program fees. It seems like that approach takes too narrow a view of the channel as part of a program rather than as a sales multiplier. But this is a minor complaint about a great overview.

By collecting all these threads of the channel chief's job, Brown also illustrates, without directly saying so, how critical it is that a channel chief have regular access to and the complete confidence of a vendor's CEO.

It's well worth a read for anyone who likes to know how tech management thinks, or should be thinking, about the channel. I hope Brown keeps up his blog. Read previous coverage of Brown's channel insights here.

Posted by Scott Bekker on April 10, 2014 at 10:28 AM0 comments


Get Back Up to Speed on MPN Prices

A quick heads up that we've refreshed one of the most popular reader resources on RCPmag.com -- the MPN cost breakdown.

We've maintained this outline of the Microsoft Partner Network's basic cost levels since 2011, updating it occasionally when there are major changes.

The idea is to help you stay abreast of how the return on investment you're getting from your Microsoft partnership compares what you might get at another level of the program.

This latest update includes the new (higher) prices for the Microsoft Action Pack and the end of the promotional pricing on the Small Business silver competency. The update also takes away the entries for Cloud Essentials and Cloud Accelerate. The free Cloud Essentials program is being discontinued as Microsoft integrates cloud licenses into the Action Pack and competencies. Cloud Accelerate, meanwhile, has morphed into more of a sales incentive program, with IUR cloud seats and core benefits now coming exclusively from the Action Pack or competencies.

Get back up to speed at "Microsoft Partner Network Cost: How Much To Join the MPN?"

Posted by Scott Bekker on April 09, 2014 at 12:29 PM0 comments


HP, Microsoft Roll Out Joint Flex Bundles for SMB

HP and Microsoft are circling their Frontline Partnership back to the SMB.

The 30-year partnership between the companies ebbs and flows in focus among SMB customers, enterprise customers and technology alliance work.

Last week at the HP Global Partner Conference, a minor announcement about something called "HP SMB Flex-Bundles engineered for Microsoft workloads" signaled that VARs and resellers focused on SMBs are getting some attention again.

"This is the first attempt in many years to go to the SMB market together. We've been focused, as an alliance, in upper midmarket and enterprise," said Stuart Kalman, director of the Microsoft Alliance for the HP Enterprise Group, in an interview this week.

Peter Davidson, senior director of worldwide distribution at Microsoft, said in the same interview that both companies view SMB as a big opportunity right now. "There is a tremendous amount of growth in SMB, and we want to capture it," Davidson said. "In the past, vendors have just looked at SMBs as buying ad hoc products. Now, they need solutions; they need to be global; they need to be able to enter markets more agilely. They're looking at mobile; they're looking at cloud. They're increasingly more tech-savvy. We're acknowledging that."

To meet SMB needs, HP and Microsoft created flexible bundles organized around a few themes. The first three bundles actually rolled out in late January:

  • Virtualization, which includes HP servers and storage with Windows Server software.
  • A "My First Server" bundle, with lower-end server hardware and Windows Server 2012 software.
  • A Microsoft Exchange bundle that comes in three different flavors based on the number of users (generally, HP and Microsoft are defining SMB as up to 1,000 users).

Kalman said HP and Microsoft will roll out two more bundles, one based on SQL Server and one built around Microsoft Lync, in the next quarter. He also characterizes the Flex-Bundles program as an ongoing, iterative process with more bundles to come.

One twist in this latest bundle approach is flexibility, Kalman said. "There's really an opportunity for the customer to be able to purchase a set of hardware solutions as part of this bundle that is not as rigid as [some previous bundles were]," he said. "Today we're saying, here's the bundle as we recommend it, but if your customer needs something unique, and almost all customers do, they can do that within some parameters."

No particular membership will be required for VARs or resellers in the HP PartnerOne program or the Microsoft Partner Network to use the architecture. "We are using our distributors as the aggregators. I would say there's probably an 80-90 percent overlap between the distributors Microsoft and HP have," Davidson said. "The distributors also play a very important role in activating and engaging the resellers."

In addition to materials that distributors are developing on the HP SMB Flex-Bundles, Kalman said HP and Microsoft jointly invested in marketing battlecards and presentations, with some computer-based partner training still on the way. "This is more than just a set of SKUs being put out to distributors," Kalman said.

Posted by Scott Bekker on April 03, 2014 at 10:59 AM0 comments


Windows XP Users 'Sleep Walking' into Minefield

With about a week to go until Microsoft kicks Windows XP off of extended support, one of the major OS share tracking firms says users are "sleep walking" toward the April 8 deadline and its associated security problems.

"Despite the stark warnings and publicity surrounding the end of support in six days' time, it appears that significant numbers of people are still using XP and sleep walking into a potential minefield of security and virus risks," said Aodhan Cullen, CEO of StatCounter, in a statement Wednesday.

[Click on image for larger view.] Source: StatCounter

According to StatCounter, Windows XP is still being used on the Internet by 18.6 percent of computers as of the end of March. That puts it second behind Windows 7 (54.7 percent) and ahead of Mac OS X (8.6 percent).

The situation is only slightly better in the United States, where Windows XP is in third place at 15 percent share, and the U.K., where it's also in third place with 8.4 percent share.

Source: NetApplications.com

Another share tracking outfit, NetApplications.com, finally showed some movement away from Windows XP throughout March. After a three-month plateau in which Windows XP lingered at around 29 percent share worldwide, the OS shed about a point-and-a-half of share to end March at 27.69 percent.

Windows 7, rather than Windows 8/8.1 or Mac OS, appeared to be the beneficiary of the Windows XP drop, according to the NetApplications.com data.

Related:

Posted by Scott Bekker on April 02, 2014 at 11:26 AM0 comments


Microsoft Partners See Opportunity in Office for iPad

Several Microsoft partners with substantial Office 365 practices greeted the long-rumored arrival of Office for iPad with enthusiasm.

"We're definitely very excited about Office for iPad," said Pete Zarras, president of Cloud Strategies. "It should be pretty good for Microsoft and Apple and even better for customers."

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella and other Microsoft executives rolled out Office for iPad in a news conference late last week that also included a new offering called the Enterprise Mobility Suite (EMS). Office for iPad consists of three different apps for download from Apple's iPad marketplace -- Word, Excel and PowerPoint. All three are free to download for document viewing and presentations, but file creation and other features require an Office 365 subscription to unlock.

Those three apps, plus Microsoft OneNote, quickly commanded the first four positions in the "top free app" chart in the Apple store, and Word and Excel also held high positions among the top-grossing apps, suggesting many customers were converting to subscriptions from within the Apple store.

For Zarras, the iPad availability improves the story behind the Office 365 subscriptions that he already sells to customers.

"I think it really ensures the value proposition of five copies of Office per Office 365 user. When you say one of those can be on your iPad, too, that's the instant translation," he said.

As for the arguments from Apple proponents that Cupertino and third parties have apps that offer sufficient productivity, making Microsoft's offering too little too late, Zarras doesn't find them compelling. "Given the alternative to go to the source or go to a wannabe, now that the source is available to them, I think they're going to be excited to have it."

Matt Scherocman, president of Interlink Cloud Advisors, is enthusiastic about the message iPad support sends about Microsoft's cross-platform commitment.

"You're taking the cross-platform veto away. Some CEOs don't want to buy Office 365 because they've already got iPads," Scherocman said. While he's been showing naysayers that they can run Office through different iPad workarounds for a while, he expects the native touch client to make a difference. "Today, it's more efficient than it was."

Having Word, Excel and PowerPoint in the mix also bolsters the case Scherocman has been making to clients about Microsoft's impressive roster of cross-platform mobile apps, including OneNote, OWA, Office Mobile, OneDrive for Business, OneDrive for Consumer, Lync, an Office 365 admin console, RDP, Xbox SmartGlass, Bing and Yammer.

To Ric Opal, vice president at Peters & Associates, the Office for iPad announcement wasn't even the biggest news of the day, as far as his company is concerned: "Office for iPad is whip cream on the sundae."

What really grabbed Opal's attention was EMS, which includes Windows Intune, Azure Active Directory Premium and Azure Rights Management Services. Azure AD Premium provides cloud-based identity and access management with single sign-on to many third-party tools and services, while Intune was expanded to support the Samsung KNOX platform and Remote to My PC capability for Android and iOS devices. (While Office for iPad was available immediately, EMS won't be available through Microsoft volume licensing channels until May 1.)

"The bundling and the pricing is going to be attractive to the enterprise" in a way that will be strategic for Microsoft and its partners, Opal said.

Opal views EMS through the lens of the big battle right now over where enterprise customers park their cloud assets. "If I'm a corporate account, I'm making a decision to keep infrastructure local, to do some hybrid implementation or to throw it all up in the cloud. Microsoft wants that to be in Azure. Customer choices are also co-lo, Rackspace, Amazon, [etc.]," Opal said. "If I were going to use Azure AD Premium, that basically says my directories are married to Azure. If I'm going to trust my directory to Azure, then why wouldn't I take that next step and put some databases up in SQL Azure? If I can get the customer to buy EMS, that puts customers on the bridge to the Microsoft cloud."

Opal expects EMS to help "pretty significantly" with a number of current head-to-head opportunities that Peters & Associates has against Google.

Meanwhile, with the iPad announcements ending up both being broader than expected and having immediate, rather than future, deliverables, Opal finds himself excited about Microsoft's upcoming slate of industry conferences.

"Based on the cadence that we've experienced, I'm looking forward to Build, Tech-Ed and [the Worldwide Partner Conference]," he said.

Posted by Scott Bekker on March 31, 2014 at 1:48 PM0 comments


With Intercloud, Cisco Ends Role as 'Arms Dealer'

When it comes to cloud, Cisco just shifted from acting as an "arms dealer" to becoming a cloud services provider in its own right, according to analysts at Technology Business Research (TBR).

My colleague Jeffrey Schwartz covered Cisco's announcement earlier this week at the networking giant's Las Vegas partner conference. Here's how Jeff described the news:

The company [Monday] said it will invest $1 billion over the next two years to offer what it argues will be the world's largest cloud. But rather than trying to beat Amazon Web Services, Microsoft, Rackspace, IBM, Hewlett-Packard, Salesforce.com, VMware and other major providers that offer public cloud services, Cisco said it will "join" them together, figuratively.

Cisco said it will endeavor to build its so-called "Intercloud" --  or cloud of clouds -- aimed at letting enterprise customers move workloads between private, hybrid and public cloud services.

Cisco's expanded cloud strategy, revealed at this week's Cisco Partner Summit. (Source: Cisco)

In an analysis Thursday, TBR's Michael Sullivan-Trainor and Scott Dennehy characterized the announcement as a notable change for Cisco:

The move is a significant departure from the company's previous strategy of being just a cloud "arms dealer" (i.e., providing the infrastructure elements to service providers and enterprises that enable public and private clouds).

Changing positions in the cloud world holds some significant risks for Cisco, according to the TBR analysts:

TBR believes the new cloud strategy will negatively impact Cisco's hardware sales, particularly in the service provider segment, as customers will be able to leverage Cisco's application-centric, network-aware services without buying routing and switching infrastructure for their cloud environments. ... the move will place Cisco into competition with other key partners, such as IBM, as well as customers like Verizon that sell public cloud services using their own infrastructure. ... TBR believes Cisco will face challenges executing its new cloud strategy, as the focus on applications and services does not play to the company's core strengths in hardware.

For all those challenges, the TBR analysts say they expect Cisco to "quickly establish itself as a key player" by investing in additional partnerships and tuck-in acquisitions.

Posted by Scott Bekker on March 27, 2014 at 1:42 PM0 comments


HP PartnerOne Adapting for a 'New Style of IT'

Hewlett-Packard President and CEO Meg Whitman is calling for a change in the way HP and its partners relate.

"The New Style of IT requires a new style of partnering," Whitman said in a statement this week from the HP Global Partner Conference in Las Vegas. "Together HP and our partners have become the go-to technology provider for the New Style of IT with industry-leading technology solutions, programs and incentives that help partners drive growth."

What does the new style of IT mean to Whitman?

During her keynote, Whitman delineated four major trends undergirding the "new style" -- cloud, security, big data and mobility. She also noted the shift in the way technology is consumed, paid for and delivered, and changes in how infrastructure is built, apps are written and data is consumed.

She implied that the sheer volume of content and data being created through social media and ubiquitous cameras puts legacy datacenter approaches on a path that isn't sustainable in terms of space, energy or cost.

Whitman said HP is looking for partners to help customers achieve IT goals, including lower costs, greater agility, simplicity and speed.

"HP, with our partners, is the only company with the breadth and depth of innovative products and services to help customers succeed in this new reality," Whitman said. "With HP as your partner, you will have the broadest array of channel-optimized products and programs suited for technology refreshes, upsell and cross-sell opportunities."

Down where executive strategy meets channel engagements, Whitman's themes translate to several changes coming to the HP PartnerOne program this year. The changes broaden the types of companies who can become part of the formal HP PartnerOne program and bring cloud more formally into the partner program.

The expanded channel company types eligible for PartnerOne will soon include service providers, systems integrators, OEM integrators, ISVs and distributors.

On the cloud side, HP is launching HP PartnerOne for Cloud, aimed at partners who can help customers build hybrid cloud solutions that bring together private, public and managed cloud deployments. HP joins other major vendors, including Microsoft, IBM, Amazon and Google, in trying to build hybrid capacity in the channel. (See this feature from the April issue of RCP for a roundup.)

HP is also adding what it calls the HP PartnerOne Cloud Reseller Specialization. The label will supports partners who resell HP Public Cloud, HP Managed CloudSystem Matrix and cloud services from HP PartnerOne Service Providers.

Posted by Scott Bekker on March 27, 2014 at 12:02 PM0 comments


No, Touch Office for iPad Isn't Slapping Surface in the Face

In a week, Microsoft is going to release Office for iPad. Or it won't. It's rumor at this point.

One of the themes for now, however, is the "controversy" that Microsoft would be releasing a touch-first iPad version of Office before releasing a touch-first version of Office for the Surface.

The argument goes that Microsoft is somehow throwing Surface under the bus by prioritizing iPad for Office.

This is a clear case of missing the forest for the trees. One of the core design goals of the Surface RT and Surface 2 was to make them work with Office. With Surface, you got full-featured versions -- better than any touch-optimization workaround for the productivity challenges of a tablet. Office is the whole reason the somewhat kludgey desktop appears at all in the RT version of Windows 8. And the whole Surface device, with its click-in keyboard, was built, basically, to be a tablet that runs Office extremely well.

Could Microsoft make a more touch-optimized version of Office for Surface eventually that improves the experience? Sure, but it's silly to say the company is prioritizing the iPad in any way on that.

Now, what's the long-term differentiator for Surface if iPad has Office, too?

Well, that's a much tougher question. But I'm still not sure that much is changed for Surface if Microsoft finally starts grasping for the Office-on-iPad revenues that it's been leaving on the table all these years. Surface is already decidedly not setting the world afire with sales. The strategy of keeping Office exclusive demonstrably did not work, and that's been clear since long before this iPad decision.

What Microsoft is left with is what it claimed to want for Surface all along: a hybrid tablet that serves as a reference design for OEM partners and a tablet for people for whom productivity is as important as entertainment.

For Microsoft partners, meanwhile, Office on iPad would be nothing but a win. Being able to extend their Office-based solutions to the growing legions of corporate iPad users is all good for the Microsoft channel.

Posted by Scott Bekker on March 20, 2014 at 10:21 AM0 comments