The news of Microsoft making Office free for mobile devices probably did not get you excited because you have probably been using free apps that can do the same thing that Office can for a long time now. For that very reason the mobile world did not change course when the news that Microsoft has made its, once cash cow product, free online for all mobile users. So no cheering and yelling and excitement? I mean, isn’t this what everyone has been waiting for? Not exactly. The thing is that Microsoft got greedy with its products, especially Office, at a time when free products were being given away that can do the same thing that Word, Excel, Outlook, and Powerpoint, and even OneNote can for a long time.
Downfall of Office
If you were to ask a kid in school what app they use to write their papers with on their mobile device or to take notes with in class, chances are they will tell you a name that is not a Microsoft product. So why is that? Because kids don’t have money and schools provide a list of apps that they can download and use for free to do their homework with. And that right there is what killed the Office product for future generations. Kids using iPads in school (good luck finding one that uses Surface tablets, even though they beat the iPad in usability by a hundredfold) probably have gmail accounts assigned to them which comes with Google Docs (ask a kid if they have a hotmail or outlook email account and chances are they will give you a weird face). Google Docs has been around for a long time and in that time it has been free from the start. [Fun fact: if you have a hotmail or outlook account then you have had Office Lite for free for years now, but how many people knew that?] Google Docs doesn’t have all the bells and whistles that Office Word does but it has enough to write a paper, apply basic formatting techniques, and print it out for the teacher. What more does a student need? Students are very proficient when it comes to using free programs like that because it comes packaged with their email account.
Most students also know of apps for their iPads that they can use to get their homework done with that are free and because they learn to use these apps instead of Office, the use of Office becomes pointless because they don’t grow up using it in class so they see no need for it in the long run. This is where a generation gap starts to grow and the future prospect for Office gets weaker.
People in office environments that are not tied to their desk are able to work from their mobile devices and because of this they rely on apps that can still do the work they need done without Office. During all this time Office was something you had to pay for which discouraged others from buying the full program. Why spend that much money when you can get an app, or use Google Docs, for free. Infact Google has now made it so that you can use their free programs as apps individually and edit Office files within their apps now. So why use Office?
Late to the Party
Microsoft showing up late to the party is nothing new. They are still operating in the old model of people paying for software upfront instead of getting things for free now and paying for only extra add-ons. Since Microsoft waited so long in getting their software to the mobile devices and then making it free, it gave enough time for the market to find similar apps that did just the same for free. So the challenge now for Microsoft is trying to get people to come back and use their product, but why do that when so many have created documents using other programs? Programs that, chances are, not supported in Office creating another obstacle for people to want to make the transition now.
This is a lesson for many businesses that think putting up paywalls and charging people for a product they think people will be begging to pay for just because they have used it for so long is a lesson in losing sight of the big picture. Remember there are companies out there that are creating products that are free, and if you get the open-sourced community fired up enough to think that they have to pay for your product just because you think it is so amazing, they will band together to create one that is free just so they can prove to you that the market can knock you down just because you got greedy.
In all other cases, Microsoft, the once great American company is struggling, enough though the Surface tablet is leaps and bounds ahead of the iPad, to get people to buy their products because they just don’t understand the market anymore. You would think with their rigorous standard in hiring people they could find someone who knows how to get out of this mess. Chances are though they will continue to stick with their “market-research” and keep making the same mistakes they have been for awhile. This sucks because I really love the Surface tablet and it keeps getting beat down by an inferior Apple product. This is another lesson for Microsoft to learn about in coordinating Marketing and Software development together instead of separate. I wonder if Microsoft will still be around in twenty years considering that they just laid off another 3k employees a few weeks ago and in the summer laid off 18k employees. Seems like they need help, and they need help bad. I’d worked there just to help see that the Surface tablet beats the iPad but chances they would still make me go through that intense hiring process.
Now that you can download and use Office for free on your mobile device I think those that depend on Office for all the company work will find this a huge relieve. I will be telling more people about this in all my classes because so many wish to learn all that each Office program can do. Having that same power in your mobile device just improves people’s ability to get more work done.
They no longer have to hunt and search for free apps because now they can focus on getting to know Office better again. I think if Microsoft wants to learn from this mistake they should take note in knowing that when you interfere with people’s workflow it will hinder your ability to regain their trust later on when they have to spend an extra hour or two looking for something that does something similar to what your program already does. This just makes them hate you more for wasting their time. It’s the same with Adobe reader, there are so many little websites and programs that waste people’s time in just trying to convert a PDF file to word or adding on an extra page that people end up downloading malware onto their computers and having to pay someone to remove it. Imagine when the world turns on Adobe Reader and they no longer need their program, what then? They should take a lesson from Microsoft and realize that tomorrow, there might be a new app that can do everything Acrobat Reader can do for free just like what happened with Gimp. Bottom line, learn to help your customers get what they need to make their work life easier and they will return the favor with loyalty and support.
News Articles and Resources