Microsoft's decision to port Office "shows the threat that Microsoft feels in the enterprise," says Jordan Stolper, CEO of StoryDesk, a New York City software firm that offers a Web-based authoring tool, with an extensive set of ready-to-use templates for quickly creating mobile apps for catalogs, sales and marketing presentations, order-taking and the like.
Users log in to the StoryDesk website, select templates, and upload product photos and a wealth of data, including descriptions, SKUs, pricing information and even discounts. The data is securely stored by StoryDesk. The end result is a native iOS app on the iPad, displaying the full catalog and save orders even without a wireless connection. [For one business user's case study see "Padlock salesman trades 30-pound sample case for 1.35-pound iPad"]
iPad users have turned to non-Microsoft software such as QuickOffice, CloudOn and SlideShark, says Stolper, a move that "pushed ownership of mobile users to third parties. "Which is, I suspect, partly why Google bought QuickOffice," he adds.
Another alternative is online services such as Box or Dropbox, which lets users and companies store a range of documents in the cloud where they can be accessed from mobile devices anywhere. "Which means that Microsoft is [also] ceding 'mobile + cloud' territory to third parties, an even scarier scenario," Stolper says.
That's because this combination poses an "existential threat" to Microsoft because it could cause users, and enterprise companies, to abandon Microsoft as a platform, at least for mobility.
It's this marriage of mobile devices and cloud services that may be Microsoft's real opportunity, and target, says Benjamin Levy, a principal with Solutions Consulting, a Los Angeles firm that specializes in Apple and iOS deployments for enterprise customers.
"The place where I think Microsoft can still succeed is in cloud connectivity using its Office 365 and SkyDrive products," Levy says. "Document creation for word processing, spreadsheets and presentations is already functional on iOS. But storage and corporate connectivity and collaboration can be difficult to make easy for users."
"If Microsoft can deliver a compelling solution that allows corporate customers to more completely integrate into existing document storage and collaboration models, then I think they'll be welcomed," Levy says.