Microsoft inches toward Office on iPad, Android tablets

Windows-first strategy remains sacrosanct, but 'We don't have our heads in the sand,' says Ballmer

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In fact, both Moorhead and Silver agreed that Office in the enterprise isn't going anywhere any time soon.

Moorhead, for example, believes that Microsoft can still carve out a tablet business in corporations thanks to its Office franchise. "Android and iPad are not an unassailable threat in the enterprise today," he said. "I believe [Microsoft's] answer, and what HP and Dell are doing in tablets, are going to minimize the threat."

Microsoft uses well-worn arguments to good effect, Moorhead said, by pointing out Android's shaky security history and the difficulty of managing, provisioning and deploying non-Windows devices within enterprises.

Silver agreed. "Enterprises would still like a manageable platform," he said. "And the limitations of alternate products has maintained an appetite for Windows versions."

Even so, there are trends that should give Microsoft pause, Silver counseled. The consumerization of IT, and the bring-your-own-device model that represents that trend, could unseat Microsoft.

"The problem is that knowledge workers now have more power about what devices they use," noted Silver. Microsoft has to prove to them, as consumers, that it supports its services and software on non-Windows platforms. "As Microsoft tries to sell Office 365 to enterprises, ...if it can't run on the most popular platforms, that could have a negative impact on their ability to sell," Silver added.

Microsoft's executives realize that they have fewer tools and procedures to sell to consumers, or the business workers who behave like consumers. "...It's a lot trickier to have a high-popularity service with the consumer," Ballmer said last week.

And from the comments made last week, Microsoft "gets it" on mobile: Several, including Ballmer, acknowledged they're way behind in mobile. Not surprisingly, they countered with promises to do better, to be smarter.

"We don't have our heads in the sand," said Ballmer during his part of the presentation to Wall Street. "We are working away on all the things you think we should be working away on. We're building the things that you would have us build. [And] we have surprisingly less religion than you would think we probably have."

But until Microsoft commits Office -- and other parts of its vast empire -- to iOS and Android -- and provides a timetable -- the questions will continue.

"Looking through the lens of offense and defense, Microsoft is pretty comfortable playing defense in the enterprise," said Moorhead. "And it's playing off that with offense in consumer. But it may not go as quickly as everyone wants."

Gregg Keizer covers Microsoft, security issues, Apple, Web browsers and general technology breaking news for Computerworld. Follow Gregg on Twitter at  @gkeizer, on Google+ or subscribe to Gregg's RSS feed . His email address is gkeizer@computerworld.com.

See more by Gregg Keizer on Computerworld.com.

Copyright © 2013 IDG Communications, Inc.

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