Hal Berenson defends Office on Windows RT

Hal presents “a reasoned and rational defense of the current state of Office on Windows RT machines”:http://hal2020.com/2012/11/07/understanding-office/. I am almost half convinced. But I do differ with Hal on some points.

* The Office and Windows businesses have always been intertwined, they owe big parts of their individual successes to each other, they are all part of the same ecosystem bet. And for the Office team to deliver such a tepid solution for the premier effort of the Windows team, well that seems like a missed opportunity.
* And it is not just that the Office team bet against Windows RT. They have continuously bet against mobile devices across the board — there is no great mobile Office solution from Microsoft for any tablet or phone You can perhaps understand the waffling on Windows RT, but to completely ignore the trend towards mobile?
* An argument is made that no one at Microsoft could have predicted how thinly supported the desktop mode would be in Windows RT. That shows a real lack of foresight, since it only took about 12 nanoseconds for speculation to start on this outside the company once Windows RT was announced.
* Office, the richest and biggest group at Microsoft, couldn’t find a way to squeeze out mobile versions of their apps? Somehow Apple has done it for Keynote and Numbers and Pages, and they have a fraction of the revenues and profits in those groups.

Obviously I am unhappy with the Office experience on my Surface, and expected Microsoft to do better. Overlaying a touch interface on an existing mouse interface simply doesn’t work very well — and it was completely knowable and should have been addressed more deeply in Microsoft’s strategy.

UPDATE: “Hal articulately explains how the Microsoft culture has changed since my tenure there in the Paleozoic era, and how the Office team had limited/no information about Windows RT”:http://hal2020.com/2012/11/07/understanding-office/#comment-3532. Hat tip to Hal, this is very edifying. Based on that, I withdraw some of my criticism of the Office team, particularly wrt Office on Windows RT — you can’t bet on something if you don’t know anything about it. I will redirect that criticism to Windows management and Microsoft management — if you are going to ship a device whose hallmark feature is Office, then you better damn well make sure you have created the environment for it to have a great version of Office.

I will still blame the Office group in part tho — they may have had no insight into Windows RT, but they certainly knew that touch devices (Win8 on Intel, iPad) were going to be important in the future, and that running “classic Office” with its mouse/kb interface on these devices was going to be a bad experience.