Office and the iPad Pro: It's just business, stupid

Microsoft's not treating Apple's impending iPad Pro any differently than its own Surface 2-in-1s

Office 2016 mac

Microsoft will require owners of Apple's not-sold-until-November iPad Pro to pay for almost all functionality in its Office suite, a point neither Microsoft nor Apple bothered to highlight this month when the latter invited the former to share stage time at the tablet's introduction.

But that's not news.

Microsoft is simply sticking with a formula it crafted almost a year ago and has echoed since: It would field one version of a touch-centric, made-for-mobile Office but divvy up customers into two pools, each getting a different mix of free from the freemium business model they shared.

Potential iPad Pro customers can be excused for being confused. Office on the iPad Air 2, Apple's latest 9.7-in. tablet, is free for most document creation and editing chores when used by consumers. And the list of the not-free features is small and, not surprisingly, slanted toward business users. The overall impression, then, is the Office is free when the messenger is a consumer, or the target audience of the report is consumer.

But Office is not free. Not by a long shot. And therein lies Microsoft's motivation for the two pools.

While Microsoft seems glad to give away Office Mobile to consumers -- with some exceptions -- its revenue model requires that it make money from business workers. That's easiest to see, and understand, when one realizes that the difference between what's available to one pool but not the other is that the two are identified not as free/not-free, but as non-commercial and commercial.

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