Microsoft Snoozes and Loses – Apple’s iWork Suite is My Clear Choice

I don’t usually write about technology topics, although I am a little bit of a techno-geek. What does interest me today is the failure of Microsoft to anticipate the growth of tablet adoption, and to adequately protect its “Office” franchise of word processing, spreadsheet and presentation software.

I am a freelance writer and a member of the adjunct faculty at Ursinus College. In these roles, I use an iMac, iPad and iPhone – which in my opinion are far superior to their non-Apple counterparts.

Particularly in the classroom, I find the Apple “iWorks” suite of productivity software to be far superior to the “Office” suite. I can standardize across my platforms — create a presentation on the Mac in Keynote, store it in the Cloud, and then access and project it in the classroom using the iPad. No messy conversions back and forth between Keynote and PowerPoint formats, with missing fonts and the like — it is all very seamless. In fact, I personally find the Apple software easier to use, and much more intuitive than the Office version. An added advantage is being able to use the lightweight iPad instead of a heavier and bulkier laptop.

There were a couple of negatives to overcome, though. One was how to post the Keynote presentations on the Ursinus campus-wide “Blackboard” system, for later student access. Blackboard, at least as configured on our campus, will accept PowerPoint format, but not Keynote. Problem solved by converting the Keynote slides to Acrobat PDF format, and posting them on the Blackboard system, which works fine.

The second problem was that I could not figure out a way to advance the slides in the classroom without standing at the lectern and triggering the slide changes on the iPad (which was tethered to the projection system at the lectern). The most recent version of Apples’s iWork suite provided the breakthrough I needed — I can now use my iPhone to control the presentation from anywhere in the room. The iPad and iPhone now link together, as long as they are on the same wifi network. I’ve tested it, and it works like a charm. Second problem solved!

Finally, as a writer I have to interface with editors who for some reason insist on tinkering with my already perfect copy, and many of them operate in a Microsoft environment. No problem — the documents in Apple’s Pages application can be easily exported to Word or PDF format, and then sent as email attachments. For consistency I retain all original documents in the iWorks format, and only transform them if needed to send in Office or PDF format.

If Microsoft had been right on the ball when the iPad popularity was clearly established, and made their Office product available for all Apple devices, I confess that I probably would not have even tried the iWorks suite. But Office was not available for all devices these last several years, and I found myself seeking workarounds that would allow me to operate smoothly in a cross-device environment. The iWorks suite handles it well, and is clearly my choice. For me, there’s no going back.

According to news reports I have read, Microsoft will announce on March 27th that they will make their Office suite available for the iPad, as it has been available on the iPhone for the last several months — but with the need to purchase a subscription to Office 365 in order to do any editing on the remote devices.

Microsoft has lost me already as a consumer, and I suspect that their purported subscription model (iWorks is now free with the purchase of new Apple devices, and at a nominal price for existing devices) will be a barrier for some consumers. Maybe in the corporate environment it is easier for a company to standardize on the Microsoft products, given the installed base of PC’s. But for this writer and educator, Apple has clearly taken the lead.