There once was a time, not that long ago, when Apple was in a death grip from Microsoft. Were it not for Steve Jobs’ second coming, a Microsoft financial investment to keep the Federales at bay, and loyalty from Mac customers, the Apple we know today may not have been.
Times change. While Apple was reinventing the technology world, Microsoft slumbered along, content to squeeze profits from Windows and Office, waste money on ill-advised investments which brought no return, and allow the iPhone to become the future of mobile computing. That was then, and this is now and Microsoft is kinda sorta mostly back, baby.
To be fair about it, Apple now makes far more money each quarter than Microsoft which still pulls in the most profits from Windows and Office. Ventures into other revenue streams have brought mixed results, but Microsoft today is a far cry from Microsoft under Bill Gates or protege Steve Ballmer who was ousted a few years ago.
Today, Microsoft’s apps may be the best the company has ever delivered. Windows 10 gets kudos from critics, but eve better, Office is everywhere. Not just Windows. The Mac version– used here and there in the school where I work as system administrator, app trainer, and troubleshooter– has never been better. Plus, Office runs on iPhone and iPad, and on Android devices. What’s not to like?
Even the pricing is good. Mac users can get Office 365 Business for as low as $6.99 a month which includes 1TB of online storage, plus Outlook, Word, Excel, and PowerPoint– a few dollars more puts Office on up to five Macs. All the same apps are available on iOS, too.
It’s common knowledge that Mac users are easier on tech support than Windows PC users, and the same holds true for the Mac and iOS versions of Office. Maybe that’s more a reflection of Apple’s customers being more self sufficient, but it’s not an issue that is lost on administrators and enterprise tech groups who see the Mac, iPhone, and iPad as less expensive to set up and maintain as their Windows PC counterparts– and that works for Office apps, too.
Despite the nasty Surface tablet notebook hybrid commercials which pit Apples to apples, Microsoft deserves some kudos for improving the Office ecosystem outside of Windows. Lest you think I’m merely parroting some Microsoft public relations release, let me tell you that every app Microsoft publishes still smacks of Windows in look and feel and usability. In that regard, not much has changed.
In our school we use Microsoft Office for compatibility reasons; especially with Word and Excel. Even the free Pages and Numbers are not good substitutes for compatibility reasons, though many members of faculty and staff prefer and use Keynote. My favorite Office app on the iPhone is Outlook. My second favorite is OneNote. Both are free, but the latter is also free on the Mac. They integrate and sync well, but both smack of that boxy, over indulgent Windows look and feel.
Microsoft’s Office is one of the suites of applications which also have a subscription component. Pay a monthly price (or, annually for a better discount) and get the whole shebang; all the Office apps. Adobe has something similar for Creative Cloud which, for a health monthly price tag that lasts forever, gets a user access to nearly everything the company publishes.
Apple’s approach is different. Basic apps are free, included with each device, and usually sync well between devices. Chromebooks work the same way, too, but apps are web-based and usually less competitive with features, functionality, and capability. So, again, kudos to Microsoft for improving the Office experience and making it available cross platform, while competing with free apps from Apple and Google.
I don’t always enjoy using Microsoft’s Office apps, but they work better now than in the past, get updated frequently, and remain competitive.