The “Windows First” Mobile Strategy For Microsoft Office 2013 Is Not Working

Microsoft is pinching CIOs by not providing an easy way to run the just released Microsoft Office 2013 except on Windows RT, the operating system for its Surface tablets. With little cross-platform integration, Microsoft is creating an opening for vendors that have a clearer path for a complete mobile workflow.

Outlook is the killer app for Microsoft, but the company has not shown any interest in releasing it for Office on the Surface or any other mobile device, said Analyst Esteban Kolsky, Founder of ThinkJar. Instead, Microsoft makes the case for Office365 in the cloud. But so far it only has 20 to 30 percent of the functionality that a customer would get with the desktop version of Microsoft Office. See Sarah Perez’s article for her take on the latest from Office365.

Forrester Research Analyst Phil Karcher said to me in an email that Microsoft does have a complete suite of mobile apps for Windows RT and Windows Phone, but only has Lync and OneNote apps for iOS and Android devices. It has improved browser access to SharePoint 2013, which benefits users on Android and iOS. However, it does not have mobile versions  of its core office productivity applications — Word, Excel, PowerPoint on iOS and Android.  He sees it as a matter of time before Microsoft opens up more to other platforms.

But Karcher said that competitors have a mixed bag, too:

Google Drive has more editing functionality on Android devices than it does on iOS today. It only introduced editing capabilities for its iOS app in September, and to my understanding only supports docs, not spreadsheets or presentations. IBM Docs has native apps with comprehensive functionality for iOS and Android today, including collaborative document editing from those devices. But a major complaint from users in general is that they want compatibility with their documents formats. Both Google and Android have the advantage of native mobile apps on popular platforms and continue to present alternatives to Microsoft for office productivity in general. But any first mover advantage in mobile support I suspect may be short-lived.

Zoho Evangelist Raju Vegesna said similarly that Windows Phone’s poor market share is a main factor in how Office fares, especially as the desktop recedes in importance:

With Windows Phone share lingering at less than 5 percent and with no iOS and Android versions of Office, users will look for alternatives. Remember, mobile share is going to be more important than desktop marketshare moving forward. Countries like India have 10x more mobile users than desktop users.

I’d love to see Office365 become something important. That would be a shift. The issue for Office comes down to portability. I should be able to open any document, on any device and have an experience that makes the mobile workflow somewhat seamless.

But in truth, not one vendor has the mobile workflow working. It is still a mix of vendors, providing different tools in their various suites. IBM Dominos, for instance, integrates with IBM Traveler, its mobile software for pushing email to mobile devices. IBM Docs integrates OpenSocial, providing a clean web experience. But at least one IBM customer I talked to uses SAP Afaria to manage its mobile devices. That shows the mix that we will continue to see as customers seek out their own workflows for connecting employees and their mobile devices.