If Office Hits The iPad, Even Fewer People Would Buy A Surface

Remember this ad? The ad where Microsoft attempted to position the iPad as a chopstick-playing toy and the Surface as a PowerPoint-editing machine?

Yeah, that’s why we can’t have nice things.

Microsoft just released Office for the iPhone. It lets users edit any Word, Excel or PowerPoint document. As the oh-so-catchy name states, Office Mobile for Office 365 subscribers is Office Mobile for Office 365 subscribers only, meaning the app is essentially $100 a year. It’s not “Office for iOS.” It’s just a way to open and partially edit Office files for those saps paying for Microsoft’s pricey cloud platform.

Judging from the screenshots, it looks like a quality application. It supports rich-media content like charts, animations, SmartArt graphics and shapes. And since it works through Microsoft’s cloud service, all changes saved on the phone are also made to the original.

But forget about a native iPad app. Microsoft can’t kill the only legitimate selling point of its struggling Surface tablet.

Microsoft might have moved enough Surface tablets to avoid calling it a flop, but the tablet was far from a blockbuster hit. Ever since it launched the Surface, Microsoft has supported it with constant ad campaigns touting the tablet’s productivity chops. The latest TV spot pits the Surface RT against the iPad, deeming its offering as the superior choice for those who need to get work done. However, in Microsoft’s world, “work” equals editing a PowerPoint deck. This is something you can do quite handily on the iPad using Keynote and, in fact, I suspect Keynote users are well aware of the benefits of their superior platform.

Middle-manager infighting must be rampant at Microsoft. On one hand, the company has to properly support its Windows 8 ecosystem, which means it has to position its tablet offering as the only MS Office solution. But then, likewise, a true mobile version of MS Office would have a better shot at fighting Google Docs. In this case the Office team lost, relegating Office to just the iPhone — and in a truncated version at that. Windows 8 wins, the Surface stays slightly more interesting, and everybody in Redmond wins.

Only the consumer loses.