MS Office for iPad

The Daily reports that Microsoft is ready to release an iOS native Microsoft Office app in the coming weeks.

A brief hands-on with a working prototype of the software revealed a number of new things. The app’s user interface is similar to the current OneNote app, but it has hints of Metro, the new design language that can be seen in Windows Phone and in the as-yet-released Windows 8 desktop operating system.

This will be an interesting test of Office’s relevance in today’s market.  Its absence from the iPad hasn’t exactly held sales back in either the consumer or business markets, and other companies (including Apple) have had a two year head start to come up with alternative products.

Windows 8 vs. Mountain Lion

Anyone following Apple and Microsoft in the late 90s would have a hard time imagining a headline like this in 2012.  ExtremeTech’s Sebastian Anthony examines the upcoming strategies from each company later this year, and summarizes Microsoft’s situation like this:

The problem, of course, is that Windows 8 is a massive, revolutionary gamble that takes Microsoft way beyond its comfort zone. For 30 years, Microsoft has been making money on x86 PCs and servers, and the Office suite of software. With Windows 8, Microsoft is moving to a brand new architecture, giving away Office for free, doing away with the Start button and menu, and generally making a huge mess of the Desktop/Explorer side of things. Adding to this, Windows Phone 7 is limping along, and there’s no real indication that Windows drives users to the Xbox 360, and vice versa. In short, Microsoft needs Windows 8 to succeed on tablets and drive sales of Windows Phone 8… or it’s screwed.

I’m encouraged that Microsoft is striking out in a different direction with Metro and Windows 8, but I wonder if it’s enough.  While Apple essentially created new markets for itself and folded that success back to the traditional desktop computer, Microsoft is trying to push the other way with a “Windows everywhere” strategy that is a variation on their old theme.  The problem is that Windows Phone 7, while very good, hasn’t gained the traction needed to entice a large user base to “lock in” with the new experience across all devices.

The world began passing Microsoft by in 2007 when the iPhone hit, and the me-too mass market success of Android that followed further marginalized the former Redmond giant.  Painted into a corner, Microsoft feels they need to respond boldly with Windows 8, a largely unproven break from their traditional computing approach.  2012 is shaping up to be a very interesting year.

OS X Mountain Lion

When Apple named 2011’s major OS X update “Lion” many people (including yours truly) wondered if the naming indicated that the “king of the jungle” would be the last big release for the Mac before joining forces with a unified iOS across both Mac and mobile products.

The answer to that question is Mountain Lion- still a distinctly Mac-only offering, but moving closer to feature parity with the iOS.  iChat is out and Messages is in.  iCal becomes Calendar, and Address Book becomes Contacts.  Game Center moves onto the Mac platform, as does AirPlay mirroring, Notification Center, OS-level Twitter integration, and plenty more.

This feels like an entirely appropriate move and one that’s most likely been a long time coming.  Mac OS X (now only referred to by Apple as “OS X”) had evolved for many years before the offshoot iOS appeared with a clean slate to essentially “start over.”  The two operating systems have been developed in parallel since then, but it was clear that there were inconsistencies and differences in how a particular task got done.  Mountain Lion is more than just renamed applications and more iOS-style UI elements- one only has to look at the deep integration of iCloud in this new 10.8 release for proof.  It’s a shift for Mac users that will potentially remove the user even further from digging around for files in directories on the hard drive.  You still have access to all the same folders, but the necessity to navigate them is becoming less important.

“I’m thinking printers”

WSJ reports on Meg Whitman’s turnaround plan for HP:

To help speed growth and repair its balance sheet, Ms. Whitman is betting big on 72-foot-long digital printing presses, called Web presses, that cost $1 million to $2 million each. The digital presses—targeted at commercial printers that churn out books, direct mail and catalogs—are aimed at replacing the manual offset presses that many printing shops have long used.

Why does this feel like an Onion article?