I don’t know if you have noticed, but lately Microsoft has been actively developing for the iOS platform. This isn’t something completely new, but in the last two days their activity went through the roof.
Yesterday we saw OneNote updated to scale on the iPad, and today two other big milestones hit the AppStore: Kinectimals and SkyDrive.
Kinectimals is the first game developed by Microsoft for the iPhone. To be fair it’s not developed from the ground up, it’s just a porting from the Windows Phone platform. And to be even more fair, it comes from the original version released for the Xbox 360 as part of the first batch of Kinect games (as you can easily detect from its name).
It could be the first of a long line of porting, so it didn’t set off too many alarms. The bigger deal came with SkyDrive.
SkyDrive is a native iOS app of Microsoft’s homonymous cloud service and what can be seen as a direct attack to DropBox. The company described their app as: a “critical” app to expand SkyDrive to smartphone lines, noting that mobile access to files is equivalent to “table-stakes.”
The problem? They are late to the game, again.
Long-time iOS users are already embedded inside Apple’s iCloud ecosystem or users are turning to the wildly popular and cross-platform DropBox. As both are stellar platforms, users have no reason to switch a less-integrated one that offers fewer features. I tried the SkyDrive app and found that in comparison to its rivals, SkyDrive fails in from both a UI and functionality stand point.
More interesting than what SkyDrives’ failings are , is Microsofts overall goal – why enter the game at all?
The iPad is proving itself as a superb platform to create content making it a natural environment for Office programs. Right now Apple’s iWork offers the best suite of productivity apps, but users can run into compatibility issues especially when working cross-platform. A scaled version of Office could solve all these problems and can give users the option to chose their preferred productivity suite.
And Office for the iPad will be be much more than a porting development. In order to compete with iWork, Microsoft will need to go back to the drawing board to develop a much better more intuitive UI than previous versions. Apple has set the bar very high and knocking the iOS king from its throne is not going to be an easy or short process
And with the launch SkyDive, we’re seeing the beginning of that process unfold. The Redmond company is experimenting.
SkyDive was a calculated risk, a means to an end.
Office for the iPad is too big of an opportunity to be done by guesswork. Microsoft knows that when they launch their IOS suite, they have one shot. The smallest mistake could sour the public to the platform and kill Office for the iPad all together.
If Microsoft can learn from its failings, they could loose the battle to win the war. Whether or not they do so let’s hope is yet to be seen but, lets just hope we end up with something better than this.
(Image courtesy of Wired – Gadget Lab)