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Microsoft's aversion to iOS and Android gives QuickOffice a chance

With Microsoft ignoring iOS and Android, the market for mobile office software is left to small vendors like QuickOffice

By , Network World
July 11, 2011 06:09 AM ET

Network World - It's unlikely you've ever picked up a phone and said, "Hey, this would be great for building spreadsheets and PowerPoint presentations!" Yet vendors are developing mobile document viewers and editors in abundance for iPhones, Androids and other smartphones -- and now tablets as well.

You may not want to write more than a sentence on a phone, but people are increasingly leaving laptops behind when they go on business trips or vacations, packing only a tablet and perhaps a Bluetooth keyboard.

The biggest office software vendor -- Microsoft -- doesn't make office software for any of the popular tablets, leaving the innovation to smaller companies. With that in mind, I recently interviewed David Halpin, vice president of engineering at QuickOffice, to get his take on the state of mobile documents.

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QuickOffice is one of the most mature and widely used office platforms for smartphones and tablets, having been pre-installed on or downloaded to 375 million devices. The software is a Microsoft Office replacement, displaying and editing word processing documents, spreadsheets and presentations in Microsoft format, while integrating with Google Docs and popular online file-sharing platforms such as DropBox. At $15 a pop, QuickOffice is the most popular fee-based business application in the iPad App Store, ahead of rival Documents To Go, and is the fourth-highest grossing iPad app across all categories.

Why doesn't QuickOffice face any competition from Microsoft? Although Microsoft has built a OneNote application for iPhone and hasn't ruled out bringing the rest of Office to iOS, Halpin believes Microsoft will continue focusing on Windows phones to the exclusion of rival platforms. The only mobile version of the whole Microsoft Office suite is built for Windows Phone 7.

Microsoft dominated the office market by first capturing the desktop OS market, and linking Windows and Office, Halpin notes. By keeping Office on Windows Phone 7 and future Windows tablets, Microsoft can tell enterprises that full Office capabilities including integration with Exchange and SharePoint require Windows phones.

Building Office apps for iOS would be akin to "giving arms to the enemy" in Microsoft's view, Halpin says.

"I don't think it's a technical problem at all" preventing Microsoft from building for iPhone and Android, he says. "I think it's a deliberate decision to stay out of that market."

Microsoft's Office Web Apps can be accessed from any browser, but its functionality is limited on desktop computers and even more limited in a phone browser. Unlike Google Docs, Office Web Apps doesn't allow editing in a phone browser or on the iPad.

Editing Microsoft Office documents on a phone or tablet therefore requires a third-party application, such as QuickOffice. While most users would rather save heavy editing for a desktop or laptop, QuickOffice is used by many, even on phones.

"Even though some people write term papers with QuickOffice on a mobile phone, I'm not sure that's how I would use the application," Halpin says. "We find people who are serious writers, or serious accountants doing pivot tables or massive calculations -- clearly you can't do those types of things."

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