Microsoft is becoming an Apple iPad Pro accessory

Apple, iOS, iPhone, iPad, iPad Pro, Microsoft, Office, Office 365

When you click through to purchase a new iPad Pro, you'll find Office 365 at the top of the list of optional accessories for Productivity

Credit: Apple

And it likes it that way

The times they really are “a-changin’” as Apple begins selling Microsoft Office 365 subscriptions as optional extras to customers ordering a new iPad Pro through the Apple Store.

Everyone wins

That Microsoft has made Office available to iOS users isn’t news, -- it introduced Office for iPhones and even those Android devices capable of running it way back in 2014. What is new is that Apple is offering Office as a point of sale accessory to iPad Pro purchasers (and purchasers of all other iPad models). [NB: Purchasers may want to bear this  in mind.]

That’s a good thing:

  • iPad Pro users get an easy (if expensive) way to collaborate with millions of Office-bound PC users using machines, many of which are less powerful than the latest Apple tablets.
  • Enterprise users gain a point of purchase path to ensure easy provision of the standard office suite.
  • Apple reinforces perception that its tablet is a capable creative and enterprise tool.
  • Microsoft can claim this proves CEO, Satya Nadella’s commitment to ensuring its solutions exist across every platform. It had to do this.

Ultimate PC replacement?

Apple knows that for most PC users iPad Pro provides enough “oomph” to handle most of what they already use those old, slow computers for. Apple reads the customer feedback and knows it is already attracting customers from the Windows world. Why wouldn’t Windows users want free software upgrades for life? Especially if they can use Office.

Apple is actively pushing these three subscription tiers to customers:

  • Microsoft Office 365 Personal (1-year Subscription; 1 License) for $69.95
  • Microsoft Office 365 Home (1-year Subscription; 5 Licenses) for $99.95
  • Microsoft Office 365 University - 2 Licenses for $79.95

History doesn’t always repeat

What matters is that not so long ago people wondered if Microsoft would even continue to develop Office for Apple products.

Apple was worried enough to develop iWork.

The steady erosion of traditional PC markets has had consequences on Apple’s old ‘frenemy’ in Redmond, and Apple’s increasing market share in every category means Microsoft must supply software to iOS and OS X platforms.

Why would the company resist offering software to the number five PC maker, number two smartphone vendor and number one smartwatch and tablet manufacturer? Refusal would be an ideological decision as suicidal as the current UK Chancellor’s economic strategy.

Replacement

With over 600 million PCs over five years old (according to Apple’s VP marketing, Phil Schiller), the arguments raised in favor of the status quo are interesting. The transformation of the PC market sees Windows loyalists argue that technical hurdles alone will stop Apple’s charge. “The iPad Pro does not support Active Directory,” they mutter, “it lacks support for legacy enterprise apps,” they moan.

To be fair they have a point, but most serious enterprises today run legacy systems alongside modern test systems on which tomorrow’s enterprise apps are being made. Apple knows that while iOS may be at a disadvantage on legacy systems, it’s a positive advantage on the systems that will run tomorrow’s enterprise.

Of course, you will see some half-baked enterprise deployments that don’t support iOS, but employee and customer demand will force them to change, or (more likely) disappear. Technical hurdles are just challenges - solutions will emerge once there is sufficient demand.

Difference engine

This is all good for Microsoft. It knows its PC business is shrinking and has already shifted to focus around enterprise infrastructure. It wants to go where the big money sits, so interest in clawing back a few dollars from PC sales has waned.

The future is heterogeneous: with Windows, Apple, true Linux and even a dose of Android. Eventually even these platforms will disappear, perhaps replaced by virtual operating systems that exist on intelligent self-healing networks.

Microsoft has become an Apple accessory maker, and, for the present at least, that’s OK.

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