Microsoft to Apple: iWork stinks, iPads are toys, and you're playing catch-up

After Apple slammed Microsoft for gouging customers and designing tablets that nobody wants, Microsoft has fired back, saying that you can't get real work done with iPads or its anemic iWorks productivity suite, and that iPads are little more than toys. Who's right in the increasingly nasty war of words?

At Apple's iPad launch, CEO Tim Cook and others zinged Microsoft for charging $99 a year for Office, charging $199 for people to upgrade to Windows 8, and for having a confused tablet strategy. CEO Tim Cook said about Microsoft:

"They're confused. They chased after netbooks. Now they're trying to make PCs into tablets and tablets into PCs. Who knows what they'll do next? I can't answer that question, but I can tell you that we're focused."

Microsoft is striking back, and striking back hard, esssentially claiming that you can't get serious work done on an iPad, and that the only reason Apple is now giving away its iWorks suite is that no one wants to buy it. On the Official Microsoft Blog, Frank Shaw, Corporate Vice President of Communications at Microsoft noted the criticisms that Apple had aimed at Microsoft, and shot back:

"Seems like the RDF (Reality Distortion Field) typically generated by an Apple event has extended beyond Cupertino."

And then he took off the kid gloves, criticizing Apple's new iPads as overpriced, iWork as a pointless piece of software, and saying they don't stack up against Surface tablets when it comes to productivity. He wrote:

"Surface and Surface 2 both include Office, the world's most popular, most powerful productivity software for free and are priced below both the iPad 2 and iPad Air respectively. Making Apple's decision to build the price of their less popular and less powerful iWork into their tablets not a very big (or very good) deal."

He said iPads were not suitable for getting real work done, and that the reason Apple is giving away iWork for free is that no one wants them, as shown by their $10 price for iOS, or $20 for Mac OS X. He wrote:

"...it's not surprising that we see other folks now talking about how much 'work' you can get done on their devices. Adding watered down productivity apps. Bolting on aftermarket input devices. All in an effort to convince people that their entertainment devices are really work machines.

"In that spirit, Apple announced yesterday that they were dropping their fees on their 'iWork' suite of apps. Now, since iWork has never gotten much traction, and was already priced like an afterthought, it’s hardly that surprising or significant a move. And it doesn't change the fact that it's much harder to get work done on a device that lacks precision input and a desktop for true side-by-side multitasking."

And he concluded that when it comes to getting real work done, Apple is far behind Microsoft:

"So, when I see Apple drop the price of their struggling, lightweight productivity apps, I don’t see a shot across our bow, I see an attempt to play catch up."

Who's right here? When it comes to the productivity argument, Microsoft is. There's absolutely no doubt that a Surface Pro 2 tablet equipped with a Touch Type 2 keyboard and a free version of Office is a far more effective tool for getting serious work done than an iPad with iWork. In essence, the Surface Pro with the Touch Type 2 keyboard is an ultrabook. An iPad with iWork is...well, an iPad with iWork. In other words, fine for light work. Not well-suited for serious work.

But when it comes to the tablet market and to sales, Apple is right. For now, tablet buyers don't care about doing heavy-duty work on them. Checking email, browsing the Web, running apps, and light memo writing, are all well-suited for tablets. And that's all many people need to do for their work.

So in the tablet battle, Microsoft's Surface may be on top for productivity. But when it comes to the bottom line and sales, Apple is still cleaning up.

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