Why Is Microsoft Offering Free Office For iPhone, iPad And Android ?

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This may surprise you, but it’s true; going further Microsoft Office is free for all iPhone, iPad and Android users. Just a day after the company announced the partnership with Dropbox to integrate cloud storage service with Office for mobile, desktop and web, the decision to make Microsoft Office free for all major mobile platforms is really a surprising move. From today, you would not have to look to Office365 subscription to edit Word, Excel or other documents or store them in a cloud. All you need is, just download the office on your smartphone or tablet and store all your office document on Dropbox without paying a dime to Microsoft. Alongside a preview of Office for Android tablets, the company is launching a new iPhone Office app today.

For many, it may sound crazy but the move is being seen as a part of Microsoft’s mobile-first and the cloud-first strategy adopted by the new CEO, Satya Nadela.

“It’s an extension of the strategy that we’ve got,” says Michael Atalla, Head of Office Marketing – Microsoft he explains further, “It’s not a total strategic shift, as much of an extension of the existing strategy.” He further adds “We’re taking that same user experience we provide online to the native apps of iOS and Android. We want to make sure that our customers can be productive across all the devices they have.”

Microsoft’s free Office for iPhone, iPad and Android is limited only to end-users, and the company has decided not to extend the same privileges to business users. This is a clear sign how Microsoft is planning to compensate the losses that would occur by providing free Office to mobile users. There are hundreds of thousand businesses that rely on Microsoft Office currently and by providing the premium value, like chart elements customization and track changes, to these customers the company could easily differentiate the paid and non-paid version of Office.

“There will still be subscription value, most clearly and easily identifiable in the commercial space, but also in the consumer space around advanced authoring, analysis, presentation, and unlimited storage with OneDrive.” Says Atalla.

While most of you may be wondering how could Microsoft afford to lose million of dollars currently pocketing from selling each version of Office, its looks like a strategic move by the company. Think about it; for the last few years the company is facing stiff competition in the market from the players that are currently riding high with mobile products or offerings. Despite buying Nokia a year ago, Microsoft is yet to capture a sizable chunk of smartphone device or operating system market. Both, Google and Apple have actively working to grab the new mobile users, which are migrating to mobile at the cost of desktop. Though these people are not dumping the desktop altogether, but they prefer to take most of their world with them via mobile.

In 2014, 4.55 billion people are estimated to use mobile phone, and the global mobile penetration is expected to reach 69.4% by 2017. By the end of 2014, nearly 1.75 billion mobile users will be using smartphone and the adoption will continue on the fast-paced trajectory through 2017. These numbers clearly state that companies are bound to put mobile-first strategy on their agenda to ensure they stay afloat successfully. And, Microsoft understands this very well. The exploded adoption of smartphone has paved a way for app developers who are capable of creating an effective alternative of Microsoft Office for mobile. Besides, due to evolution of Internet monetization has become an effective medium for such app developers to monetize their free apps or split the app features into a freemium model and generate revenue for their time and efforts. Such apps may not be that technically optimized and advanced like Microsoft Office though, but mobile users are not willing to pay for simple and basic editing jobs they perform on smartphone or tablet. Therefore, Microsoft is not willing to make a way for any Office competitor to its user by sticking to the paid model.

While Apple is already offering an alternative of Microsoft office iWork at no extra cost, many independent app developers have debuted in the market with some of the promising alternates such as Paper iPad app.

In any case, Microsoft will never admit that the free Office for iPhone, iPad and Android is a strategy to strengthen its presence in the mobile space and keep users hooked with Microsoft solutions.

By in large we want that core authoring experience in front of all the users that love Office on any device they choose,” explains Atalla

This way Microsoft would ensure that users stick to Word, Excel and PowerPoint, which would eventually force companies to build solutions for it and keep Microsoft Office in business. Besides, as the need of cloud storage is swelling among the users, Microsoft is expecting that Office users would upgrade themselves to Office365 subscription, and the company will pull the money out of their pocket then. It’s an intelligent move by Microsoft, considering the traditional age-old computing softwares are becoming free-to-access. And, this will keep Microsoft’s competitor out of the business.


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