Office for iOS is a slap in the face for Windows Phone users

iPad, iPhone, and Android users get the excellent Office suite well before Windows Phone users do -- and that's not fair

I’m a Windows Phone user.

I’m not confessing. I’m not apologizing. I love my Windows Phone, and I wouldn’t trade it for an iPhone (my wife’s phone of choice) or an Android (my mother’s phone of choice). I’ve often defended my choice of phone based less on features and apps (iOS and Android have many more apps) and more on the ties to Office 365. As an Office 365 MVP, I need to have the latest and greatest set of tools for Office and for connecting back to Office 365. That’s where I’m starting to get a bit frustrated.

Last week Microsoft announced another wave of enhancements to Office for iPhone and iPad, along with a preview of Office apps for Android. That’s fantastic, but I’m not seeing the same effort going toward making sure the Windows Phone Office apps are enhanced with the same (or better) level of effort. The fact that we don’t have Office apps for Windows at all is equally frustrating.

Granted, some might say, “Well, you have Office for Windows -- why do you want the watered-down apps flavor?” The fact is that a lot of folks don’t need the whole application and would prefer to work through a lightweight app.

In addition, the apps offered for iPhone, iPad, and Android are now available for folks to create and edit content without a subscription. That can't be said for Windows users with an Office 365 subscription. They still need a subscription to get the full Office experience. There is no offered alternative to give them a free option like their iPhone/iPad/Android counterparts now have. It seems off that my wife can run Office for free on her iPad, but all of my four-colored flag devices need subscriptions.

Certainly, Microsoft has to make money. This is a business, I get that. With the number of iOS/Android devices in the market, it's smart to focus dev efforts on non-WP devices with the goal of tying folks more fully into the Microsoft service ecosystem and displacing solutions like Google Apps. I’m fine with that focus, but I don’t feel it should be the company's only -- or even its first -- goal.

I'm not alone. Exchange MVP Paul Robichaux had this to say:

"Microsoft" could solve the Office problem in a couple of ways, depending on what you think "Microsoft" means: The Office team could develop a WP version of Office, or the WP team could subsidize the cost of doing so by providing developers or otherwise covering the cost. If they aren’t doing that, it’s an indication that they feel their money is better spent elsewhere — because we know the WP team has subsidized the development of other major applications.

In my personal opinion, nothing is stopping the WP group from hiring 50 developers and parking them in the Office buildings to do what’s been done for the iOS Office apps. As Robichaux said above, they already have a good track record of throwing money at app developers to get major apps on the platform.

At the same time, Mr. Robichaux, in his use of air quotes, acknowledges part of the problem involves the way Microsoft is currently set up with different fiefdoms battling for supremacy:

When you say "there is no reason Microsoft cannot just…" you have to qualify which "Microsoft" you’re talking about. The Office client team? The Windows Phone team? They have very different priorities and strategies.

Also, we may be seeing a shift in this competitive mentality left over from the days of Bill Gates. New CEO Satya Nadella appears to be working to eliminate the competitiveness and accepting that the buck stops at his door with regard to success or failure. In that sense, Robichaux says, “… if 'Microsoft' means the CEO, then there’s no reason why 'Microsoft' can’t make product group X prioritize work for Windows Phone.”

Looking forward, it's important to say all of this now because new developmental pieces are coming down the wire. With the work occurring in MDM and the Enterprise Mobility Suite, an admin can't help but drool over the potentially cool tools. The suite of cloud services, according to the EMS site, includes Microsoft Azure Active Directory Premium, Microsoft Intune, and Microsoft Azure Rights Management. No doubt we’ll see a variety of tools released on various platforms. I, for one, would prefer all the Windows Phone pieces to sit front and center, but based on what I’m seeing in the dev space for WP I may not get what I want.

We’ll put a pin in this conversation and return at a later time. Hopefully, we’ll see much more from the WP dev team in the near future. I’m a Windows Phone user, and I’m tired of having to explain why. It should be a simple list of bullets that my phone can do that others cannot (yet).

Copyright © 2014 IDG Communications, Inc.