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Microsoft didn't take kindly to Apple's recent digs

In a blog post not-so-subtly titled "Apples and Oranges", Microsoft Corp. (MSFT) VP of Communications Frank Shaw gave comment on rival Apple, Inc.'s (AAPL) recent announcement that iWork (Apple's Office software suite) would be included free with its new iPad/iPad Mini tablets.

I. Flame On

Not surprisingly Mr. Shaw wasn't overly impressed, commenting:

Seems like the RDF (Reality Distortion Field) typically generated by an Apple event has extended beyond Cupertino.

Note: If you are the TL;DR type, let me cut to the chase. Surface and Surface 2 both include Office, the world’s most popular, most powerful productivity software for free and are priced below both the iPad 2 and iPad Air respectively.

Making Apple’s decision to build the price of their less popular and less powerful iWork into their tablets not a very big (or very good) deal.


....Microsoft understands how people work better than anyone else on the planet...We literally wrote the book on getting things done. 

And so it’s not surprising that we see other folks now talking about how much “work” you can get done on their devices. Adding watered down productivity apps. Bolting on aftermarket input devices. All in an effort to convince people that their entertainment devices are really work machines.

In that spirit, Apple announced yesterday that they were dropping their fees on their “iWork” suite of apps. Now, since iWork has never gotten much traction, and was already priced like an afterthought, it’s hardly that surprising or significant a move. And it doesn’t change the fact that it’s much harder to get work done on a device that lacks precision input and a desktop for true side-by-side multitasking.
...

So, when I see Apple drop the price of their struggling, lightweight productivity apps, I don’t see a shot across our bow, I see an attempt to play catch up.

Frank Shaw

Of course his comment overlooks the fact that most Windows 8.1 tablets don't include Office.  And it also is somewhat ironic that he espouses standardization in Office as a selling point, when Microsoft was long accused of fighting or otherwise trying to subvert standards to make Office documents compatible with open source alternatives (although it's recently come around somewhat).

II. ... But he has some points

However, Office as freebie -- particularly with the $449 USD Surface 2 -- is a pretty good deal.
 

Surface 2 (L) and Surface Pro 2 (R)

And Mr. Shaw is correct that Apple's iWork feature-wise is more comparable to the already free Google Docs (by Google Inc. (GOOG)) than Office; in fact Google Docs is arguably more powerful in that it's cross platform compatible (like Office).  Both Google Docs and iWork will meet the needs of most casual users.  But for many enterprise and power users, moving from Office to these free lighter alternatives is not an option and Microsoft knows that.

Google Docs
Google Docs is more compatible than iWork and also free.

Also it's worth noting that Microsoft didn't start this flame war.  Mr. Shaw's comment comes after Apple CEO Tim Cook at the keynote commented:

Our competition is different: They're confused. They chased after netbooks. Now they're trying to make PCs into tablets and tablets into PCs.  Who knows what they'll do next?"

We have a very clear direction and a very ambitious goal. We still believe deeply in this category and we're not slowing down on our innovation.

Tim Cook snickering
Apple CEO Tim Cook [Image Source: Reuters]

Most perceived the comment to a nameless attack on Microsoft, and to a lesser extent Google, whose Android OS now leads the tablet market.

Source: Microsoft [TechNet]



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RE: Not Surprising
By Argon18 on 10/24/2013 2:59:53 PM , Rating: -1
No, the heart of this is Microsoft's proprietary file formats, which they purposely obfuscate to make reverse engineering difficult.

If we had a level playing field, as we do with HTML, RTF, and other open standard formats, we'd have a lot more interest in non-Microsoft office applicatiojns. But that's exactly how Microsoft wants it, to maintain their market monopoly.

Open formats like HTML breeds brilliant innovation. Look at Firefox, Chrome, Safari, and all the other HTML based products, both on the content consumption side, and the content creation side. There's some really good stuff out there made by a variety of companies, all enabled by standardized open file formats.

Until the industry starts demanding open file formats for office documents, we're stuck with this crooked one-player monopoly, and efforts like iWork and OpenOffice will always be in second place. Why should a software developer devote any serious resources into building an MS Office competitor, when it's at an artificial disadvantage from day 1, due to proprietary file formats?


RE: Not Surprising
By tng on 10/24/2013 3:11:17 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
Open formats like HTML breeds brilliant innovation.
But not necessarily income. Come on, both of these companies (no matter who you like) are in it for the bottom line.


RE: Not Surprising
By Jeffk464 on 10/25/2013 10:31:42 AM , Rating: 2
Yup, apple is pretty famous for playing this sort of game.


RE: Not Surprising
By inighthawki on 10/24/2013 3:13:55 PM , Rating: 3
quote:
No, the heart of this is Microsoft's proprietary file formats, which they purposely obfuscate to make reverse engineering difficult.

You mean like docx (Office Open XML) which is an open format and standardized by ISO? Yes that must be it...


RE: Not Surprising
By OttoResponder on 10/24/2013 3:31:16 PM , Rating: 3
Funny you should mention OOXML... because it's a perfect example.

Richard Stallman: “Microsoft corrupted many members of ISO in order to win approval for its phony ‘open’ document format, OOXML. This was so governments that keep their documents in a Microsoft-only format can pretend that they are using ‘open standards.’ The government of South Africa has filed an appeal against the decision, citing the irregularities in the process.”


RE: Not Surprising
By flatrock on 10/24/2013 3:50:15 PM , Rating: 4
The problem with quoting Richard Stallman is that anyone who might consider him to be providing an unbiased opinion already agrees that Microsoft is the embodiment of evil.

Stallman is brilliant and talented. He's also extremely opinionated.

If you think that standards, or at least large parts of standards being submitted by a single company is something new, then you really haven't had much experience working with standards organizations.

Microsoft and those that work with them and create compatible products represent a huge percentage of the business software market. Why is it surprising that they are able to push their implementation through the standards process without having a lot of changes forced on them? Standardization still provides benefits to consumers and other companies, but complaining that the majority of the standards group sided with Microsoft just makes some other people bad losers.

Microsoft in the past was able to push their products as a defacto standard. People complained about needing to have more open standards, but apparently didn't realize that most companies and even individuals have a vested interest in Microsoft Office as a Standard, and it shouldn't be that surprising that Microsoft was able to get enough support to push though a standard.


RE: Not Surprising
By Mitch101 on 10/24/2013 5:15:39 PM , Rating: 2
The problem when discussing Microsoft Office is people look at it from just Writing a document, sending an e-mail, and doing a simple Excel spreadsheet when Office is a portion of a much larger Eco system.

Where Microsoft Office destroys any competition from remotely coming close is when you add in Exchange Server, SharePoint Server, and Project Server then its like bringing a water balloon to fight the entire US Military. Nothing come remotely close to Office in the corporate world.


RE: Not Surprising
By Varun on 10/25/2013 10:10:05 AM , Rating: 4
This is so true. If you look at the whole package, they are literally years ahead.

It's not just Word, Excel, Powerpoint. OneNote is amazing. Outlook is the benchmark email client. Lync is mindblowing on what you can do with it.

Access. Project. Publisher.

It's no wonder business uses Office.


RE: Not Surprising
By Krioni on 10/25/2013 10:22:05 AM , Rating: 2
This!

Say what you want about MS and their products. MS has PLENTY of flaws. However, It cannot be denied that they have the most fully integrated ecosystem out there when it comes to what a corporate environment needs. From excel to sql server to sharepoint, etc. This stuff really, really plays well together.

Also, I want to see anyone do some REALLY complex stuff in spreadsheets other than Excel. Not just making a list or creating a budget, etc. But something truly complex (think tens of thousands of advanced financial calculations). That's the sort of stuff I do at work, so I NEED excel. Now, for home stuff... I use google docs because it's sufficient for my home needs.


RE: Not Surprising
By TakinYourPoints on 10/24/2013 5:55:06 PM , Rating: 3
quote:
Stallman is brilliant and talented. He's also extremely opinionated.


Exactly. He's the last place you go for an unbiased or rational opinion


RE: Not Surprising
By sprockkets on 10/25/2013 12:51:36 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
The problem with quoting Richard Stallman is that anyone who might consider him to be providing an unbiased opinion already agrees that Microsoft is the embodiment of evil.


Logical fallacy - Poisoning the well.

He is biased but his ill will against MS isn't unjustified by any means. You haven't offered any real proof otherwise.

But I will!

1. Those so called XML office formats are just xml wrappers around the same old binary formats.
2. Documentation is incomplete to flat out wrong on the format itself.
3. Ignoring all the problems with the format, MS lobbied and shoved the approval of the format on fast track, which it never should have for such a format.


RE: Not Surprising
By chripuck on 10/25/2013 1:23:29 PM , Rating: 4
No, the XML files are not binary files, they are zip files containing full XML. The ridiculously obvious example is the fact that you can save an Excel spreadsheet as xlsm (XML based) or xlsb (binary based) with the binary version significantly smaller and faster to open.


RE: Not Surprising
By sprockkets on 10/25/13, Rating: 0
RE: Not Surprising
By rsmech on 10/25/2013 1:41:27 AM , Rating: 5
quote:
If we had a level playing field


You sound like a sore loser. That's the mentality of a taker not a doer.


RE: Not Surprising
By inighthawki on 10/25/2013 2:35:47 AM , Rating: 2
A lot of people hate on companies that have accomplished a lot and use their extensive portfolio as a means to attack them for not giving away all their work. This applies to more than just Microsoft. If you have a proprietary technology, you're just going to be attacked by the so called "open community" for doing something that doesn't align with their agenda.


RE: Not Surprising
By chripuck on 10/25/2013 1:20:15 PM , Rating: 2
Who got in the time machine and traveled to 2006?

Office has used an open XML based file format since Office 2007 was introduced. You can manipulate the darn thing via a text editor if you want to and there are many development add ins that will take a web report and output it to PowerPoint with no need to have access to COM model because they just write it in XML.


RE: Not Surprising
By djdjohnson on 10/25/2013 2:48:05 PM , Rating: 1
...and that is why, after twenty years, that HTML still has very poor support for graphics, no standard way of letting users markup documents, no support for things like text wrapping around non-rectangular objects, flowing text between frames. Not to mention that it is very difficult to get HTML objects to appear exactly where you want or be rendered exactly the same across browsers.

HTML now isn't really any different than HTML of the 1990s. JavaScript (even the mess that it is) has changed quite a bit, but the underlying HTML isn't really fundamentally different than it was ten years ago. One could easily argue that progress in HTML has been far slower than it has been in proprietary formats like those in Office.

The truth of the matter is that for HTML to progress you've got to get a lot of different parties to agree on what it is and how to use it, and many of those parties don't like each other, and don't want to adopt ideas created by someone else.

You can talk about the progress of browsers, but browsers aren't HTML. They are HTML interpreters.

And none of that addresses the fact that coding HTML and Javascript is a pain in the butt. The web is far harder to develop for than proprietary environments like Win32/WinRT/Cocoa.

Open standards don't equate to fast progress and ease of use. It seems to actually go the other way. Open standards are good in that it means that anyone can use them. But in terms of making improvements, the fact that there isn't just one body in charge means that changes take forever.


RE: Not Surprising
By althaz on 10/27/2013 7:35:28 PM , Rating: 1
All of the current Office formats are open (they use XML and Zip, FYI).

The office products are not open source, but the file formats are completely open (and are also the defacto standard).


"If they're going to pirate somebody, we want it to be us rather than somebody else." -- Microsoft Business Group President Jeff Raikes














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