Microsoft, Apple Have At It In Multiple Arenas

Microsoft’s release of its Office 365 Home Premium software to the public yesterday is drawing attention more for how it’s being distributed, or not, than for its features. 

First, it “can be ‘rented’ for a monthly fee, similar to how people subscribe to cable or to Netflix’s movie service,” as Shira Ovide reports in the Wall Street Journal, for a yearly fee of $99.99 (or $79.99 if you buy a new computer to go along with it). Second, Office is still decidedly not available for the Apple iPad, which yesterday announced a 128GB version -– twice the current top storage capacity –- aimed at business users.

“The subscription includes software for up to five devices, including Windows PCs and tablets and Macs [of the standard variety],” reports Forbes’ Eric Savitz. “The subscription includes 27 GB of storage using the company’s SkyDrive storage service and up to 60 minutes monthly of free Skype calls.”



Kurt DelBene, president of the Microsoft Office Division, tells Savitz (and others) “he thinks that within 10 years, the bulk of Office users will buy the software via a subscription.” 

Consumers can still shell out $139.99 for a shrink-wrapped version of the productivity suite -– it’s called Office 2013 -- but those who subscribe to Office 365 will see “new features and services stream … as soon as they are ready, keeping subscribers always up to date while eliminating the hassles of upgrading,” according to Microsoft’s release. 

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer tells WSJ’s Ovide that “the subscription version of Office required an overhaul to the strategy, engineering and workforce habits of a division used to releasing a new version every three years or so. ‘We are building kind of new engineering cadences in our Office team,’ he [says]. ‘That's a big cultural shift.’”

As is the venture into manufacturing tablets.

“The software giant, which recently made its first foray into the hardware business with its Surface tablet, has been trying to strengthen its market position in a time when tablets and smartphones are steadily outpacing PC sales, which used to be its dominant installed base,” writes ZDNET’s Jamie Yap.

"What we're trying to do is go with the trend of multiple devices, and say 'It's your Office on any device, anywhere you go,’” Reed Wotiz, regional director of Office marketing at Microsoft-Asia-Pacific, tells Yap in an interview at a launch event in Singapore yesterday. “It doesn't really matter to Microsoft what those devices are. We want to make sure we're everywhere on all devices."

Except the iPad -- for now -- and Apple makes no bones about the fact that it is going after Microsoft’s bread-and-butter business user when it says that the fourth-generation 128GB iPad with a “gorgeous” 9.7-inch Retina display will go on sale for $799 next Tuesday –- “a week before Microsoft’s Surface Windows 8 Pro, which costs $999 for the same amount of storage,” as the Financial Times’ Tim Bradshaw and Richard Waters point out.

“With more than 120 million iPads sold, it’s clear that customers around the world love their iPads, and every day they are finding more great reasons to work, learn and play on their iPads rather than their old PCs,” Philip Schiller, Apple’s SVP of Worldwide Marketing, says in a release that raises the question about how many “iPads” can you fit into a declarative sentence. 

The release also tells us that “virtually all of the Fortune 500 and over 85% of the Global 500 [are] currently deploying or testing iPad for everything from 3D CAD files to training videos that require a lot of storage capacity. And more than 10 million people are now using iWork, Apple’s productivity suite.

It’s not that Microsoft is ignoring the iOS market; it’s more that Apple wants too big a piece of the pie, according to All Things D’s Ina Fried. “That Microsoft is working on iPad versions of its Office apps is one of the worst-kept secrets in technology,” she writes.

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