22 February 2012

An industry pundit whiffs the ball

Like most techie types, I watch Apple's turnaround into the world's most valuable company with wonderment and admiration.  It helps that I'm a fan and user of their products from the Macintosh 512 days.  I've had great luck with Macs and iDevices and have enjoyed unbelievably good support from Apple itself.  And there's not enough popcorn in the world to feed my fascination as the company once again re-invents the notion of personal computing right before our very eyes.

In the limited time I have for what's become my favorite spectator sport, among my top go-to blogs for matters Apple is John Gruber's Daring Fireball blog.  It's rare he gets industry happenings wrong.  Today was such a day.

Lately there've been some rumors about Microsoft Office finally coming to the iPad.  Great, say I.  Doubt I'd be a customer for it, but it's clear many businesses would be.  Gruber's been watching too, and he notes MG Siegler's fascinating conjecture that Microsoft's fidgety non-denial denial of Office-on-iPad might be explainable if they're to be a part of the iPad 3 launch anticipated in a couple weeks:
But what would be in it for Apple to offer such a spot to Microsoft? You can argue that the iPad with Office available is an even more attractive platform/device than the iPad as it stands today, sans Office. But why share the spotlight with Microsoft? Apple doesn’t need to. The only other tablet computer with any traction in the market is the Kindle Fire — and the Fire is not competing at all in the business productivity market that Office for iPad would target. Android tablets don’t need to be shot down — they still haven’t gotten off the ground. Why give credence and attention to Microsoft in a market where so far Microsoft has had no success?

There are several things wrong with this line of argument.

First, despite their functionality, cost-effectiveness and security, Apple's products today are still foreign to the business world and viewed with some skepticism by management.  A bona-fide office suite would handily address that, hastening the erosion of the IT acceptance-wall that is already occurring.  So it's not at all a given that, as Gruber goes on to say, Microsoft would get more out of it than Apple.

Second, innovation occurs at intersections.  It is beneficial to the iOS ecosystem for Apple to encourage the opening of portals to new cultures, ideas and usages.  

Third, as Steve Jobs said in much different circumstances, Apple needs to let go of the idea that in order to succeed Microsoft must fail.  Shared destiny is a great motivator for all concerned.

Fourth, Apple's spotlighting of app developers and industry partners in its product events is a handy reminder that iOS's ecosystem is instrumental to its success as a platform.  In fact, the announcement of the App Store circa the first anniversary of the iPhone marked a significant upward inflection point in its sales trajectory.  Microsoft should be welcome on that stage.

Lastly, let's face it: Apple's own office suite (iWork) is probably going to look all the more impressive by comparison.

I hope it happens.


UPDATE: Gruber has some fresh thoughts on the matter.

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