If you’re a software behemoth like Microsoft trying to shoehorn their way into the mobile industry, there’s one particular problem that you face – you’re very late to the party (LTTP). By this time, multitudes of competitors have eaten their way into market share and some of them might even be better than your initial offering. Although this is something that’s happening right now with Office Mobile, Microsoft hasn’t made as much impact as they wished they did, and this is in spite of their compatibility with all of the current Office document formats. So if you can’t get people to use the software because of your ties in the desktop world, how do you do it? By making it free, of course. Hit the jump for more on this story.
In a recent blog post by Microsoft’s Kirk Koenigsbauer, it is revealed that the company had to weigh up all the pros and cons of releasing their software on mobile platforms and make it completely free. A lot of the time, the trouble with freemium models (with a paid-for element that gives you access to more advanced features), is getting the people netting this for free to pay for the extra services. But it seems that Microsoft is well aware of the challenges of making software free and by making Office free on devices smaller than 10.1 inches, they hope to use this opportunity to leapfrog the competition and gobble up as much market share as possible.
“Currently, we are also using screen size to delineate between professional and personal use. Based on our research, we are classifying anything with a screen size of 10.1 inches or less as a true mobile device: You’re probably using it on the go, when it’s not practical to use a larger computing device such as a PC or a Mac,” writes Koenigsbauer. “You probably aren’t using a mouse or a keyboard, instead navigating via touch interface. It’s probably not a “pro” category tablet that is used for design or presentations..”
“On these devices, the core editing and viewing experience is free, until you get to those premium, subscription features,” he adds in the blog post.
This is quite a drastic change from a company quite used to netting four billion dollars in profits in the launch year of any Office release. Moving to a freemium model for mobile makes sense, but it is money left off the table, something they’ve never done before. In the past, CEOs like Steve Ballmer or Bill Gates used to ride the wave of money generated by Office and Windows licensing for the enterprise and now, throwing much of that away in a market they’re not strong in in return for pure market share, is going to be remembered either as a smart move, or a dumb one.
But that’s not all…
In addition, Microsoft also announced a new deal with Android tablet vendors like Samsung, Lenovo, Dell, LG, and others in the OEM markets to pre-install the mobile versions of OneNote, Excel, Word, PowerPoint and Outlook (it looks like the Mail app in Windows 8.1) on the devices by default. Some of the OEMs make up the cheaper devices that you see on the Kalahari store – Gobii, Prestigio, Hisense, Proline, they’re all included in this deal. It is pretty big stuff.
In addition, this might mean that hybrid netbooks and possibly even just plain smaller netbooks would benefit from this deal as well, so long as their displays are smaller than 10.1 inches. It might be restricted to Modern versions of the apps and not the desktop version, but that’s a small price to pay for not having to pay for basic access to an Office suite.
This new way of thinking would also take away one of the best reasons for buying a cheap Windows tablet – these devices will no longer come with Office 365 Personal, so you’re not getting the whole package. So, while the suite is free, there’s always a catch. Microsoft says that these deals will begin to take hold sometime in 2H 2015, so around the launch of Windows 10 we’ll get to see if this works at all.