Office seems unlikely to add much beyond what users already have, through apps such as Apple's own iWork office suite. These "do a decent enough job at working with Microsoft Office documents," Allen says.
"The iOS and Android support are too little, too late," says James Gordon, vice president of IT for Needham Bank, a small community bank based on Needham, Mass. iPads and iPhones have become the dominant computing platform for nearly all employees. "Apple iWork and Google Docs are good alternatives for editing on mobile devices, or on a computer for that matter."
Gordon sees mobile Office on these rival platforms as creating more complexity for enterprise IT at a time when they're trying to reduce it. "While Office is an enterprise standard, distributed document workflow and editing is something [that] businesses are trying to avoid," he says. "All this will do is increase document fragmentation amongst devices, and give IT executives yet another headache as they try to prevent people from sharing documents with Microsoft as a central repository."
The bank has shifted from a distributed document model to a centralized one, based on Microsoft SharePoint 2010, with Office 2010 Web apps built in, Gordon says. "This creates a private cloud where data and documents are accessible, and editable I might add, but all data and document revisions are held centrally and not distributed," he explains.
The absence of Office as a native mobile app on iOS and Android opened the door to a flock of software vendors who have created a wide range of apps and services to fill that void. Brainshark modified its Web authoring tool in 2011 to create SlideShark, a native iOS app that takes an original PowerPoint file, converts it into proprietary format that faithfully mimics PowerPoint's features, and runs it natively on an iPhone or iPad. SlideShark will complement Office on iOS, says Brainshark Chief Marketing Officer Andy Zimmerman.
"Users would value the ability to create and edit PowerPoints on their iPad or iPhone with MS Office, and then use SlideShark not only to show those presentations, but also to manage, share and track the content," he says.
But others say that Microsoft has ceded critical ground to the third parties, and faces an uphill climb to reclaim it.