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Perspective: Microsoft hedges on Office for iPad, cites 'thoughtful' decisions

Gregg Keizer | Feb. 17, 2014
Company's top marketing exec talks up Office's power to make Windows special

thoughtful: adjective, characterized by or manifesting careful thought

Thoughtful. T-h-o-u-g-h-t-f-u-l. Thoughtful.

That was the watchword yesterday for Tami Reller, Microsoft's chief of marketing, when she was asked what plans the company has to extend its lucrative Office franchise to mobile platforms other than Windows.

"As we step back and say, these core applications, these core brands that are so important to enterprise customers and consumers, how do we make sure that we're thoughtful about what we're doing on the Windows platform, as well as cognizant of the fact that there's other devices in their lives (emphasis in original)," Reller replied when she was asked about the status of the decision to put the productivity suite on other operating systems.

"So you'll see us be thoughtful about how and when we bring what applications to what platforms," Reller added at the Goldman Sachs-sponsored technology conference where she spoke Thursday.

A follow-up question from the moderator brought even more from Reller, who talked about the importance of differentiating Windows to customers, both end users and OEMs (original equipment manufacturers), the vendors that make and sell devices. "A part of that [differentiation] is Office, for sure," Reller said.

That implied Office would still be used as a carrot for customers to stick with Windows, not desert the OS for rivals, a hint she quickly made even clearer. "With Windows, we're obviously spending a lot of time thinking about how we continue to differentiate the full Windows experience, particularly as we think about our partners and how we differentiate for them to pick Windows over Android."

If that wasn't clear enough, Reller pointed out that changes to Office's platforms would be a business decision, not one based on customer requests.

"We come at it from that angle, which is 'What businesses do we need to drive forward?,'" said Reller. "That's how we will make the decision [to go cross-platform]. It really ends up being business by business, product by product. There's no sweeping one decision."

Reller's use of thoughtful and her comments about differentiation made it sound like Microsoft is still thinking through the strategic implications of untangling Office from Windows, and weighing the advantage to Windows that would be lost if it offers apps for the millions of Apple iPads and Android-powered tablets in circulation.

That would be at odds with former CEO Steve Ballmer's plain-spoken pledge last fall that Microsoft would bring a touch-first version of Office to the iPad and Android after it had been released for Windows 8, 8.1 — or if the timeline was even further in the future — for Windows 9.

In fact, Ballmer said work on a touch-first Office, was "in progress ... for both Windows 8 and other platforms."


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