Death to Office or to Windows - choose wisely, Microsoft

Apple makes Microsoft look good, again


Open ... and Shut Windows is dead, and Microsoft Office has killed it. Or will, once the rumours about Microsoft porting its wildly popular Office product to the iPad become reality.

For just as porting Office to Mac OS X back in 2001 sowed the seeds of Apple's relevance as a credible desktop alternative to Windows, so too will Microsoft's capitulation to the iPad ensure that Windows will die even as Office takes on a new, multi-billion dollar relevance.

Microsoft, however much it may want to own the customer experience – from database to operating system to applications to free-time leisure gaming – wants to make money even more. Right now, Microsoft's only real money in mobile comes from browbeating Android licensees to pay it patent hush money. So Microsoft needs a winner in mobile, and Windows isn't it. At least, not anytime soon.

Which brings us to Office. Back in 2000, I was tempted by the Mac, but couldn't justify buying a machine that locked me out of the indispensable tool for business: Office. This changed in 2001 when Microsoft announced it would be porting Office to Mac OS X. Game on for the Mac.

Arguably the iPod and iPhone have had a bigger halo effect on Apple's Mac fortunes than Microsoft Office, but for many of us, buying a Mac would be impossible without Office, no matter how cool Apple's iProducts.

Putting Office on the iPad is a return to pragmatism-over-politics for Microsoft. After all, Microsoft zealously shored up its Windows franchise with Office for years.

The one platform Microsoft is not rumoured to be supporting anytime soon is Google's Android, just as Office-on-Linux remains a chimera. Microsoft, despite its newfound respect for open source, isn't about to seed the open-source market with its crown jewels. Office is a kingmaker in the enterprise, and the iPad is already king there. If Microsoft wants to make money from Office, it has no choice but to support the iPad.

But Android? Or other Linux variants? Not a chance.

Let's be clear what this means. Apple is already on a tear, but with Office on the iPad the floodgates will explode on enterprise adoption. I don't have to use Office much anymore - for me, it's a relic of an old way of computing - but I keep a copy for those times that it's a requirement. Once I have that on my iPad, the utility of carrying around a laptop, even my super-svelte MacBook Air, is gone. Forever.

And in that brave new tablet/smartphone world, Microsoft is currently a non-player, and unlikely to make up ground against a surging Apple. Sure, Office sales will go through the roof, but Windows sales? They'll evaporate, because they largely come from a form factor (desktop/laptop) that will hemorrhage market share.

ZDNet's Larry Dignan calls this a "smart way to defend the franchise," and that's true of Office. But it's a sure way to annihilate the Windows franchise.

Microsoft denies that it's porting Office to the iPad, but this is bunk, as The Daily insists. Microsoft has no choice but feed Apple's iPad success. It's not yet ready to also embrace Google's Android success, because while Apple is a hardware vendor, Google competes with Microsoft on a number of fronts.

And open source? It competes with Microsoft pretty much everywhere. No way is Microsoft going to aid and abet its own downfall by putting Office on Linux.

Still, it's a big bet Microsoft is making here, one that leaves it both a big winner (Office) and loser (Windows). Microsoft has to choose which of its cash cows it's going to kill. Actually, that's not quite true: Apple has decided that Windows is dead, and Microsoft has finally accepted this fact. ®

Matt Asay is senior vice president of business development at Nodeable, offering systems management for managing and analysing cloud-based data. He was formerly SVP of biz dev at HTML5 start-up Strobe and chief operating officer of Ubuntu commercial operation Canonical. With more than a decade spent in open source, Asay served as Alfresco's general manager for the Americas and vice president of business development, and he helped put Novell on its open source track. Asay is an emeritus board member of the Open Source Initiative (OSI). His column, Open...and Shut, appears three times a week on The Register.


Other stories you might like

  • North Korea pulled in $400m in cryptocurrency heists last year – report

    Plus: FIFA 22 players lose their identity and Texas gets phony QR codes

    In brief Thieves operating for the North Korean government made off with almost $400m in digicash last year in a concerted attack to steal and launder as much currency as they could.

    A report from blockchain biz Chainalysis found that attackers were going after investment houses and currency exchanges in a bid to purloin funds and send them back to the Glorious Leader's coffers. They then use mixing software to make masses of micropayments to new wallets, before consolidating them all again into a new account and moving the funds.

    Bitcoin used to be a top target but Ether is now the most stolen currency, say the researchers, accounting for 58 per cent of the funds filched. Bitcoin accounted for just 20 per cent, a fall of more than 50 per cent since 2019 - although part of the reason might be that they are now so valuable people are taking more care with them.

    Continue reading
  • Tesla Full Self-Driving videos prompt California's DMV to rethink policy on accidents

    Plus: AI systems can identify different chess players by their moves and more

    In brief California’s Department of Motor Vehicles said it’s “revisiting” its opinion of whether Tesla’s so-called Full Self-Driving feature needs more oversight after a series of videos demonstrate how the technology can be dangerous.

    “Recent software updates, videos showing dangerous use of that technology, open investigations by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, and the opinions of other experts in this space,” have made the DMV think twice about Tesla, according to a letter sent to California’s Senator Lena Gonzalez (D-Long Beach), chair of the Senate’s transportation committee, and first reported by the LA Times.

    Tesla isn’t required to report the number of crashes to California’s DMV unlike other self-driving car companies like Waymo or Cruise because it operates at lower levels of autonomy and requires human supervision. But that may change after videos like drivers having to take over to avoid accidentally swerving into pedestrians crossing the road or failing to detect a truck in the middle of the road continue circulating.

    Continue reading
  • Alien life on Super-Earth can survive longer than us due to long-lasting protection from cosmic rays

    Laser experiments show their magnetic fields shielding their surfaces from radiation last longer

    Life on Super-Earths may have more time to develop and evolve, thanks to their long-lasting magnetic fields protecting them against harmful cosmic rays, according to new research published in Science.

    Space is a hazardous environment. Streams of charged particles traveling at very close to the speed of light, ejected from stars and distant galaxies, bombard planets. The intense radiation can strip atmospheres and cause oceans on planetary surfaces to dry up over time, leaving them arid and incapable of supporting habitable life. Cosmic rays, however, are deflected away from Earth, however, since it’s shielded by its magnetic field.

    Now, a team of researchers led by the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) believe that Super-Earths - planets that are more massive than Earth but less than Neptune - may have magnetic fields too. Their defensive bubbles, in fact, are estimated to stay intact for longer than the one around Earth, meaning life on their surfaces will have more time to develop and survive.

    Continue reading

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2022