Nokia CEO Stephen Elop would change Microsoft's longstanding strategy of using Office as a lure for Windows PC and mobile device sales if he's named to replace the departing Steve Ballmer as CEO, Bloomberg reported Friday.
Elop, who is said to be on a shortlist of five candidates to become Microsoft's next CEO, thinks Microsoft could make more money by selling Office apps for Apple and Google devices than by using Office to drive Windows device sales, according to Bloomberg, which quoted three anonymous sources "with knowledge of his thinking."
Elop, who used to oversee Office as head of Microsoft's Business Division, certainly had plenty of exposure to the internal roadblocks to Microsoft porting Office to other platforms. In April 2009, Elop hinted at a coming version of Office for the iPhone, but one didn't materialize until more than four years later.
When Microsoft's Office For iPhone app launched in June on the App Store, it came with strings attached. It's a free app that requires an active Office 365 Home Premium subscription, which costs $100 per user annually.
Microsoft has been touting Office on Windows Phones, Surface tablets and third-party Windows 8 tablets to lure business users who need to get work done on their devices. If Elop came in and held a big Kumbaya party for Office, removing these longstanding business barriers and making it available to everyone, that would be a major shift.
However, Andrew Brust, CEO of Microsoft analyst firm Blue Badge Insights, New York, told CRN that putting Office on other platforms is already part of Microsoft's plans.
"It's the Office 365 strategy. If you ask me, the best part of a Chromebook is running Office Web Apps," Brust said in an email.
"If you define Office as the desktop suite, then Microsoft has shifted away from making it the exclusive strategic focus," Brust said. "If you define it as including Office 365 subscriptions, then it's still very much the center."
Microsoft partners have told CRN previously that they're not holding their breath for a fully functional Office suite for iPhones and iPads. Some feel Microsoft would sooner make Office an open source project than pay Apple the 30 percent commission it charges developers for selling apps on its App Store.
On the other hand, there's a school of thought that Microsoft is leaving tons of revenue on the table by not making an iOS version of Office, and the Bloomberg report suggests Elop is in this camp.
Apple offers its iWork suite of apps for free, but Microsoft's Mac business unit, founded as part of the $150 million investment it made in Apple in 1997, has the design sensibility and expertise to build an Office for iOS that people would pay for.
Microsoft spokesperson Frank Shaw dismissed the accuracy of the report with a dash of sarcasm. "We appreciate Bloomberg's foray into fiction and look forward to future episodes," he told Bloomberg.
PUBLISHED NOV. 8, 2013