At the launch of the very first iPad back in 2010, Steve Jobs’ typically effusive hyperbole referred to this being a ‘post PC world’. Tablets, he said, were the present and the future.
Given the phenomenal success of the iPad, he may just have been right. There seems to be an incredible adoption rate for technology that had no quality precedent, but Apple, quite simply, changed the way the market worked.
But there’s no dearth of naysayers dismissing the actual utility of tablets such as the iPad (along with Android ones such as the Samsung Galaxy Tab and the ASUS Transformer series). Critics tend to raise the point that there’s no productivity gap being filled by tablets – what they do can be done by either smartphones (which get more and more powerful with every passing month) or good old fashioned computers.
Nevertheless, the fact remains that the Apple iPad certainly has a plethora of apps serving every purpose – you’ve got gorgeous looking games such as Contre Jour, well designed reading clients such as Instapaper, the brilliant Flipboard’s no slouch at being a news client either, and the list will go on and on.
Android tablets have a decidedly smaller app ecosystem to choose from, and there’s plenty of junk making up the numbers in the Google Play store. But apps designed while keeping Matias Duarte’s Ice Cream Sandwich Holo UI guidelines can be flat out gorgeous themselves. The impressive Papermill app is one great looker for sure!
But that brings me to something that both iOS and Android have failed to do so far – come up with a satisfactory solution for both viewing and editing documents, spreadsheets, presentations, and the works. Sure, there are some gems to be found in both the Play store and the iTunes App Store, such as Picsel’s Smart Office, and Documents to Go. But they leave a lot to be desired when you’re creating documents from scratch.
Microsoft’s ubiquitous Office series is a dominant solution for documents globally, regardless of how you perceive the Redmond company. Aforementioned titles such as Smart Office and DTG do a great job at editing bits and pieces of documents, but when the changes you’re making to the document are significant, you’re bound to come up with significant trouble in formatting, for starters.
It goes without saying that the absence of a standard Office solution pervading smartphones, tablets and computers is a major issue that particularly plagues convergence devices like tablets. This is no way belittling what Picsel and Dataviz have achieved with their apps – there just needs to be a solution that makes tablets truly useful as laptop replacements.
BGR reports that Microsoft may finally launch MS Office for both iOS and Android tablets this November. The target audience Microsoft is reaching out at is massive – iOS devices such as all the iPhones, iPads and the iPod Touch have an incredible grip on their respective markets. The slightly less high profile family of Android tablets has some key members of its own – the Amazon Kindle Fire is a good example of how an Android tablet can be a huge success if it is priced right.
Moreover, tablets would become genuine productivity devices for the considerable number of employers around the world who gave their employees an Apple iPad or two to ‘get work done’. There wouldn’t be any issue with incompatible macros, messed up formatting, mixed up presentation design and the works. It’d be a quick and time efficient way to handle data without needing to lug along a large notebook in the process.
There certainly is a school of thought that believes that the rumors of Microsoft making Office for operating systems made by its most bitter rivals (Apple and Google) are just that, rumors. It would seem like MS would be shooting its own foot by sabotaging the chances of Windows 8 tablets succeeding, given that a major draw for those tablets would be the chance to use Microsoft services such as Office the way they’re meant to be.
Then again, I’d argue that Microsoft has a chance to drastically expand its customer base for its Office products with the launch of Office for tablet devices. The growth of the increasingly mature PC market has reached a plateau in sales, at best. Office has long been a huge money spinner for MS, and capitalizing on its brand value in a whole new and untapped market should be a great decision.
In the process, even cynics (who would have been skeptical of tablets’ utility till now) could be drawn into parting with their money for the increase in productivity and the sheer convenience that iPads, Galaxy Tabs or Kindle Fires could provide them with.