Microsoft Office, the de facto standard for creating documents on the PC, is unlikely to retain that prestigious role in the cloud. The evidence is supported by two key trends.
The first trend is that the PC is no longer the central platform of productivity; PC sales are slipping and tablets will outsell desktops and laptops combined by 2015, says IT research firm Gartner.
It turns out that many roles operate better with tablets running apps or browser-based cloud software. Field workers of all stripes – meter readers, surveyors, consultants, sales executives and so on – can do their job with a modern tablet rather than a laptop.
The majority of these tablets don’t run Windows. Microsoft has been desperately trying to establish its mobile operating system but has had little success against Google Android and Apple’s iOS.
Gartner’s research showed that shipments of Android devices will dwarf those of Windows PCs and phones by 2017. Microsoft-powered device shipments will almost be at parity with those of Apple iPhones and iPads – the latter a situation not seen since the 1980s, writes the Guardian Online.
This creates two problems. If businesses start buying non-Windows hardware they have much less reason to buy Microsoft cloud software. Windows and therefore Microsoft Office are no longer the default purchase.
The second problem Microsoft faces is a concept on which it has built its business – vendor lock-in. Cloud software and services work best on tablets and smartphones made by the same company.
Apple’s consumer cloud service iCloud only works on iPads and iPhones. A business using Android tablets will give Google’s cloud suite, Google Apps, a closer look before competing solutions. For years Microsoft has cemented its domination and watched the sales roll in. It will soon have to fight for each sale.
The second trend is the slow waning of the productivity suite. Microsoft Office used to be the only tool for creating documents of all sorts; letters, newsletters, spreadsheet lists, quotes, invoices.
But there are now cloud apps for specific tasks. Quote Roller and Quotient create a library of online quotes for a business’s services. Businesses can close more sales by watching which customers have viewed their online quotes.
Microsoft Office is no longer indispensable for creating contracts, managing contacts and creating newsletters.
This move towards dedicated apps is also making businesses more productive by freeing them from the tangle of inert spreadsheets which usually hold key business data.
What does this mean for Microsoft’s cloud ambitions?
Microsoft is proud that its cloud productivity suite, Office 365, integrates better with Microsoft Office software on the PC than any other. Once this was a great selling point but it may no longer be enough.
Image credit: Gartner/Guardian Online. Operating system shares forecast from 2012-2017. Source: Gartner, April 2013