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Google and Microsoft have a problem -- and to sum it up, that problem is Apple.
Google has tablets but they aren’t selling well against the far more complete iPad offering. Microsoft won’t have an iPad competitor until well into 2012. Google is having an issue with relevancy on tablets and Microsoft loses not only a Windows footprint but an Office footprint with every iPad sold.
What if the two partnered? Ironically it isn’t as hard as it sounds. You could actually see how this could work today.
So let’s explore Microsoft Office on Android this week.
Microsoft’s iOS Risk
While most of us are focused on the iOS vs. Windows fight, that really isn’t where Microsoft’s pain actually totally resides.
The iPad and iPhone are a rethinking of the Mac in preparation for a world without Microsoft. You see, the iPad doesn’t just replace Windows it replaces three Microsoft pillar products: Windows, Office, and IE. And it challenges affinity for a Microsoft back-end, too, showcased by how aggressively companies like IBM and BMC embrace the iPad and iPhone for their corporate management application consoles.
What Apple is attempting to do is replace Microsoft completely. They already have around 20M iPads out in the market that are very similar to PCs but don’t run a scrap of Microsoft code, nor do most connect to Microsoft services. This represents a far bigger threat to Microsoft’s existing revenue streams than does Android, which has largely failed on tablets; the Chrome OS, which isn’t selling; and Search, which is chewing up massive amounts of Microsoft cash.
Google/Microsoft Office Problems
On the other hand Google just doesn’t seem to get desktop applications. All of the Google tablets I’ve tested are plagued with poor productivity tools and bad Exchange integration. This last showcases primarily as an inability to sync calendars.
Apple, back in the early days, originally went to Microsoft to solve this problem with Word and Office for the Mac. For the Android tablet to be successful Google needs similar help. Office has been its own product for years and has versions that run on both the Mac and Windows. As the iOS displaces the MacOS the Mac version of Office is being locked out as well. And Microsoft currently lacks a competing product to the iPad in market and won’t get one until 2012.
In short, because Office is the productivity standard it would, on top of Android, substantially improve that platform and make it vastly more competitive to the iPad/iWork offering from Apple. And given Microsoft has separated Office from Windows Office on a successful tablet, this move would allow Office to compete with iWork more effectively than it can now. The result being a stronger hedge against erosion due to Mac displacements by the iOS.
Now if you think this can’t be done, try Office Live or Office 365 on Android and you’ll likely get the best Word processor experience available for that platform. And Outlook Web access provides a calendar that works if you don’t go the Office 365 route.
Office 365 is a new online suite for Small Business with everything (SharePoint, Exchange etc.) included. All they’d have to do is position it on Android. Granted it would be better as an App -- you could work online but it could be, and in many cases is, an answer for the shortcomings in the Chrome OS and Android tablets.
Interesting enough, Office Live won’t work on the native Android browser (you can view but not edit). But it will work on Opera for Android so you can load it that way and the experience isn’t bad. In fact compared to the alternative, it is damned good.
In short, and clearly unintentionally, Office Live/365 already makes Android Tablets better. On an Asus Transformer Android Tablet, my personal favorite, running Office is the best Microsoft alternative to the iPad in market. I actually like this combination better than an iPad.
Wrapping Up: Putting it All Together
Microsoft needs a way to weaken Apple enough so that the Tablet market doesn’t become an iPad market before Microsoft can ship Windows 8. Google needs a vastly better productivity solution for Tablets than they currently have.
If Office were still tied to Windows as a primary enabler this wouldn’t work but the two offerings have largely been separate since Windows XP. This suggests that Office on Android could actually work, and if you have an Android Tablet, load the Opera browser (which isn’t a bad browser for these tablets anyway) and give it a shot.
You may find it makes these things far more useful than they otherwise would be. I find it ironic that the best alternative to an iPad this year may be an Android Honeycomb Tablet running Microsoft Office Live on Opera. You talk about your strange bedfellows.