The Game Just Changed Son

Meet the new focused, nimble & determined Microsoft, now free of Windows shackles, eyes set fiercely on the rainbow colored G in Mountain View:

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella on Thursday unveiled Office for iPad, a highly anticipated and long overdue version of its bread-and-butter productivity software for Apple’s popular tablet.

The move enforces Microsoft’s recognition that it must deliver services to both businesses and consumers wherever they are, especially on mobile devices.

The app will be live for free in Apple’s App Store today. You’ll be able to read and present your content that way, but for creating and editing content, you will need an Office 365 subscription.

Today marks the “beginning of exploration for us,” Nadella said in his opening remarks.

Lean and mean Nadella then stared menacingly into the camera, narrowed his gaze and stared right through the glass to Sergey & Larry’s soul, then puffed his chest slightly and in what can only be described as a shouted whisper said, “Nadella out.”

Then he dropped the mic, stormed off the stage and some reporters fainted.

The game just changed, son.

My first thoughts, some probably influenced or borrowed from the great Mary Jo Foley and/or Paul Thurott are:

  • Is this the end of Windows? Microsoft just de-coupled it’s most profitable product Office, from the product that built Microsoft, Windows. That’s huge and it’s good. Redmond has recovered from Ballmer Fever, an acute condition marked by paralysis and fear, excess nostalgia for the way things were, and grandiose thinking out of sync with reality. Spring has come, rebirth is in the air, and the Ballmer Fever has broken, hallelujah. Office 365 online for cloud + high quality Office is going to the places where the people are at: iPads and iPhones. It’s been a soul-wrenching fight to get here, but Microsoft did it. They gut checked this out of committee and into the real world. Good on them and good on Nadella for making “cloud & mobile” something more than “devices & services.”
  • Drive is old ‘n Tired, O365 is the fresh look: Google Drive hasn’t aged well. Funny to think of it in those terms, but Docs debuted in what, 2007 or 2008? Largely it looks the same. Office 2013 has its UI fans, me among them, and it’s detractors, but you can’t say it’s remained static and boring. It’s rich. It’s still pretty fresh and, what’s more, the Hotmail/Live.com/Windows Messenger veneers have finally been wiped away from Microsoft’s O365, Azure and Outlook.com interfaces for good. It used to be you could scratch an Azure or Outlook.com like a lottery ticket and find some Hotmail or Live.com underneath, but no longer!  Somehow, someway, Microsoft went and learned great UI & Web design skills, and this is coming from an HTML 5 fanboi & zealot and one-time disciple of the ChromeOS Religion.
  • This is a really compelling deal: The O365 personal subscription is $70 a year, so affordable you almost want to buy a domain and move it there since you get Office + Outlook just like at your work. Now that deal is even sweeter because you can get Office on an iPad your wife can use. No more Office interpretative art apps for the Household Technologist to troubleshoot just to view the .xlsx file! Hurray!
  • This means less pain at work, perhaps a beginning of the end of Tech Cognitive Dissonance & Shadow IT: That C-Level executive in your life who cut his teeth on Lotus 1-2-3 and is now the premiere Excel ninja & Power Pivot/Sharepoint reosurce for the company can use his preferred touch device, an iPad, the same device he brute forced into your stack a few years ago. No more fighting; here’s your iPad Office sir. Yes sir, I promise, I will never ask you to try a Surface tablet again. Thank you good day. One less battle!
  • This is Agnostic Computing in theory and practice: We the people want the software and tools and apps and content we like to be available on whatever device we happen to have with us at the moment, whether it’s got a half-eaten fruit on it, a Windows logo, or a green robot. Microsoft just validated that vision
  • This is confusing for Microsoft shops: My British colleague and friend sitting across from me was excited by this too. He’s a Windows guy like me professionally, but an Apple fan in his private life. Hey, no one is perfect, and I hesitate to share his private afflictions like that, but he approved it. Anyway, upon hearing the Good News, my colleague began pondering an iPad-as-workstation strategy and rushed to the AppStore to get Office for his iPhone. Now he’s got The Real Thing installed alongside his OneDrive app, and he opened an Excel doc from our Sharepoint site which hooked somehow into our modest O365 implementation but that prompted for his on-prem domain credentials and holy shit, can I get a whiteboard up in here? I’ve lost the thread/Kereberos ticket. Point is, he got Excel on his iPhone.

I’m feeling pretty bullish on Microsoft today even if I fear for my precious Windows & Hyper-V. This is exciting news, a step forward for technology and an acknowledgement that while Microsoft can’t compete everywhere, in some places, it’s still to be feared and it’s still on its feet. 

The fever has broken and the game is back on. Your move Google.

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