A few tweets of mine today about Microsoft releasing Office for iPad seem to have people up-in-arms. So allow me to clarify.
First, I do think this is an important moment. Not for me, personally, because I still won’t use Office — haven’t in years — but for millions of other people who do and want to use it on their own terms, on their own devices. More importantly, this is important for Microsoft. It’s a grand gesture to suggest they’re finally taking their head out of the sand it has been in for the better part of a decade.
"But, but, but, Microsoft clearly didn’t make Office in 52 days!," they whine. No shit. I’m not saying that Satya Nadella has been the one man hand-coding Office for iPad with both hands tied behind his back for the past 52 days. I’m saying it takes balls for Microsoft to even release Office for iPad at all. Especially now.
At the very least, it’s a tacit admission that Surface has been a failure. But more broadly, it suggests that Microsoft’s direction and execution these past few years, in the “Post-PC” world, has been a failure.
The iPad was released four years ago. Nearly every other software maker on the planet was able to make a wide range of apps for the device. Microsoft could have released Office much much much much much sooner. They chose not to. Steve Ballmer chose not to.
I’m not sure how much Office for iPad will ultimately mean for Microsoft. Beyond Excel, what these last several years have shown many of us is that we don’t really need Office for most tasks (thanks again in large part to Microsoft refusing to release Office on devices like the iPad). We found other ways of getting stuff done.
But I think the gesture is more important. Microsoft now seems committed to helping users by putting their software on the devices people actually use once again. It’s a simple point, but a vital one.
In his first 52 days in power, I believe Satya Nadella has already put Microsoft in a better place than it has been in years. Again, not just by descending from the sky (drive) with Office for iPad in his hands. But there have been several other smaller gestures. OneNote and other apps in the Mac App Store (which are doing very well). Open-sourcing DOS and Word for Windows. (Hopefully) Removing Mark Penn from his level of power/influence. Etc. Etc. Etc.
The world is a better place with a relevant Microsoft. We’re all better off in that world. Great companies tend to do their greatest work when they’re being pushed by other great companies. I believe that for the past many years, Microsoft fell from the ranks of those great companies. They weren’t pushing anyone to do better work. Now they’re working their way back.