The Consumerization Of Office


Today, Google announced the acquisition of Quickoffice.  For those who don’t know, Quickoffice is arguably one of the better office productivity suites currently available for mobile platforms (also check out OfficeSuite 6 by MobiSystems). Quickoffice allows users to view, create, and edit Microsoft Office compatible Word, Excel, and PowerPoint documents. Quickoffice is available cross-platform on Android, iOS, and Symbian.

In the void created by the absence of a mobile version of Microsoft Office, Quickoffice has taken a strong leadership position. However, until yesterday this was done so (not to detract from the product) by an upstart company that could be competitively explained away; my how the stakes have changed. With the acquisition, it has moved from an interesting gap filling measure to a strategic threat from a competitor who doesn’t lack in cash, competition, or cause. Make no bones about it; Google has its competitive sights on Microsoft Office via the mobile platform. (They also bought DocVerse a few months back ) If there wasn’t already immense pressure in Redmond to get a cross-platform mobile version of their popular Office suite out, it just doubled.

First, from a competition perspective, all mobile enterprise office productivity discussions will be framed through the lens of a Google/Microsoft battle. The temptation to turn this into a clash of the titans is just too great for tech writers to avoid doing so.  Second, the functionality Microsoft offers will have to be, at a minimum, at least what Quickoffice offers. Based on Microsoft’s ability to deliver mobile capabilities of other Microsoft products I have some real reservations. OneNote for Android is barebones, as is the Lync client. Microsoft doesn’t yet have the track record to deliver fantasist mobile apps outside of the Windows Phone platform. Microsoft seems to be perpetually behind on the mobile front.

However, the biggest challenge Microsoft faces isn’t Google, but rather the consumer. Consumers have come to expect in the mobile arena that they call the shots.  I would even go so far as to say they feel entitled to call the shots (not that it is always a good thing). This is expressed in the enterprise as the Consumerization of IT. The Consumerization of IT denotes the idea that technology shouldn’t be overly complex. It should be something that the average consumer can understand. When you combine the sense of entitlement with the Consumerization of IT, the end result is often manifested with end users doing an end-run around the IT department to use the apps and devices they like best. My good friend, Philippe Winthrop, Managing Director of the Enterprise Mobility Foundation, calls it the IT-ization of the Consumer.  This attitude, coupled with a product from a viable competitor, should set off major alarm bells in Redmond.

Microsoft is in danger of having consumers do an end-run around Office – call it the Consumerization of Office. With a solid enterprise office suite alternative (provided Quickoffice can deliver the Track Changes functionality) Microsoft will quickly lose one of their greatest strongholds in the enterprise.  Without a similar product offering by Microsoft, the acquisition of Quickoffice by Google only hastens this loosening of the grip of Microsoft Office dominance in the enterprise. While Microsoft continues to develop their offering on the sidelines, Google has a staggering advantage to secure market share.

Mobile consumers have demonstrated time and again they will abandon the dominant paradigm en masse in favor of functionally that is available now rather than wait for the old guard to catch up. Users want/need/must perform office productivity tasks on their mobile devices and they are finding workarounds wherever they can. The greater the proliferation of mobile devices in the enterprise, the more of a requirement it will be to consume office documents from those devices.  Savvy consumers are not going to sit around and wait for Microsoft to provide the solution when an alternative is in front of them.  The question that remains is – How will Microsoft respond and will it be substantial enough and in-time to satiate the empowered consumer?

Benjamin Robbins is a Principal at Palador, a consulting firm that focuses on providing strategic guidance to enterprises in the areas of mobile strategy, policy, apps, and data. You can follow him on Twitter or connect on LinkedIn.

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8 Comments

Filed under Apps, Mobile, Productivity

8 responses to “The Consumerization Of Office

  1. Pingback: Stop The BYOx Insanity!!! | The Enterprise Mobility Forum

  2. Do people really use mobile devices to create and edit content? They clearly use mobile devices to consume, but it’s hard to do serious work on a tablet.

  3. That kind of all depends on the tablet and /or setup. I use an Asus Transformer Prime instead of a laptop – for out of office use, along with my Galaxy Note. Both mobile devices are primarily (other than that telephone thing) content consumption (I call it WSRM – write some read mostly) but the Prime with proper, integrated, quality mousepad and keyboard works fine for writing.

    I cover the pros and cons in a blog weeks back at http://wp.me/pzNqN-1S – bottom line: my choice a hybrid Note & Prime kit when I travel, Note & Desktop at home… the fact that my phone is a screamer with a huge screen also likely skews my views along with the fact that I have been doing this stuff since the original Palm Pilot (and before!)

    I am not about to create Powerpoint slide decks for final presentation or complex spreadsheet work but I have the tools to do basics in either as and when I need to. . and I agree completely that if it were not for that combo with the real keyboard I wouldn’t start to use the tab (it is much easier to type on a glass screen when phone size, in comparison to tablet size – to me) Oh and I always do my Powerpoint slide shows by PDF since the mobile office products can’t always render MS Office 2010 stuff completely

    It is mostly habit to use the desktop when I have it: better kb, bigger screen, full tools but with Evernote and Email account syncs all working well I can easily move from one to the other (a big shared NAS device plugged into my router and available remotely — my own PRIVATE cloud storage – completes the picture!

    The biggest issues are the lack of speed and the maturity / sophistication of the software (hey, it is too easy to select and wipeout stuff with a touch screen, let alone a touch screen / kb / mousepad combo, to NOT have more Undo capability)

    But I am Android phone and tablet all the way (the selection of devices which many consider to be the Achilles heel of Android is also a major selling point: competition drives innovation and product availability and I have been around long enough to know what looks ok and can get better (and flexible open Android, not closed steveOS and certainly not the cumbersome look and feel of w8 tiles)

    Not that I am too opinionated, mind…

    and now I have to link to all of this from my blog 8¬)

  4. Pingback: Goodbye personal computer, hello personal cloud? I don’t think so! | DanielSteeves

  5. HA! Forgot the main point.,,

    I *would* say that MS Office was in trouble if it weren’t for Office 360 which positions them to do that cloud thing… even if the current implementation is not perfect the fact that they have a roadmap indicates strategic readiness (without which it would be a different story)

    So, the Goog and MS both need to pick these up… and it will be interesting to see if Apple has learned anything from the amount of money MS has made on Office for Mac over the years…

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