It's unlikely you've ever picked up a phone and said, "Hey, this would be great for building spreadsheets and PowerPoint presentations!" Yet vendors are developing mobile document viewers and editors in abundance for iPhones, Androids, and other smartphones -- and now tablets as well.
You may not want to write more than a sentence on a phone, but people are increasingly leaving laptops behind when they go on business trips or vacations, packing only a tablet and perhaps a Bluetooth keyboard.
The biggest office software vendor -- Microsoft -- doesn't make office software for any of the popular tablets, leaving the innovation to smaller companies. With that in mind, I recently interviewed David Halpin, vice president of engineering at QuickOffice, to get his take on the state of mobile documents.
QuickOffice is one of the most mature and widely used office platforms for smartphones and tablets, having been pre-installed on or downloaded to 375 million devices. The software is a Microsoft Office replacement, displaying and editing word processing documents, spreadsheets and presentations in Microsoft format, while integrating with Google Docs and popular online file-sharing platforms such as DropBox. At $15 a pop, QuickOffice is the most popular fee-based business application in the iPad App Store, ahead of rival Documents To Go, and is the fourth-highest grossing iPad app across all categories.
Why doesn't QuickOffice face any competition from Microsoft? Although Microsoft has built a OneNote application for iPhone and hasn't ruled out bringing the rest of Office to iOS, Halpin believes Microsoft will continue focusing on Windows phones to the exclusion of rival platforms. The only mobile version of the whole Microsoft Office suite is built for Windows Phone 7.
Microsoft dominated the office market by first capturing the desktop OS market, and linking Windows and Office, Halpin notes. By keeping Office on Windows Phone 7 and future Windows tablets, Microsoft can tell enterprises that full Office capabilities including integration with Exchange and SharePoint require Windows phones.
Building Office apps for iOS would be akin to "giving arms to the enemy" in Microsoft's view, Halpin says.
"I don't think it's a technical problem at all" preventing Microsoft from building for iPhone and Android, he says. "I think it's a deliberate decision to stay out of that market."