The real reason the "official" Microsoft Office for iOS doesn't matter for enterprises

Okay, so Microsoft finally released a version of Microsoft Office for iOS. Sure, the reviews claim that it sucks compared to other third-party office suites, and sure, it requires a $100-per-year Office 365 subscription to get it, but in reality neither of these things matter.

Okay, so Microsoft finally released a version of Microsoft Office for iOS. Sure, the reviews claim that it sucks compared to other third-party office suites, and sure, it requires a $100-per-year Office 365 subscription to get it, but in reality neither of these things matter. Right now due to the way the enterprise mobility management world works, the Microsoft Office suite is irrelevant to the vast majority of enterprise users.

Why? Because the Microsoft Office app doesn't integrate into existing enterprise file sync products like Citrix ShareFile, VMware Horizon Data, Box, WatchDox, etc. It only integrates into SkyDrive.

Why is this a problem? One of the biggest concerns corporations have with mobile file sync products like Dropbox is that they easily enable data to "leak" outside of the organization. The way companies address that is to use Dropbox-like mobile file syncing software which have additional DRM features to prevent users from copying files out of the corporate file syncing client. On a mobile device this means that either (1) the file syncing app itself has document editing capabilities or (2) there has to be a secure MAM-enabled connection between the file syncing client and the document editor to ensure that the corporation can trust the app that's editing the document. (Confused? Read my primer on the differences between MDM, MAM, and MIM, or pick up Jack' Madden's book "Enterprise Mobility Management.")

In other words, when you buy a corporate-focused file syncing product, the file syncing vendor has either licensed, OEMed, or written a secure document editor for editing files on mobile devices. Unfortunately if you buy the Microsoft Office suite for iOS, it can only open files from Microsoft SkyDrive. But no corporation uses the public SkyDrive since there is no DRM built into it and your files are stored in Microsoft's public cloud.

So from a practical standpoint, there is actually no way an enterprise can use the Microsoft Office app for iOS. Their users simply won't be able to access any of their files. (And if the files are in the public SkyDrive, then the company will be in violation of many regulatory policies around enforcement of knowing where their data is and who's accessed it from what devices.)

So while a lot of people are saying that Office for iOS is a #fail because its features are lame or that it's a #fail because it's only available via an expensive subscription, for enterprises it's a #fail because you can't use it to access documents in corporate-focused data sync products.

Boring news

Join the conversation


Send me notifications when other members comment.

Please create a username to comment.

Skydrive Pro integration is in there (as well as there being a separate iOS app).  It just seems at the moment there is no support for onpremise SkyDrive Pro/Sharepoint.  Wont be far away through surely.... then what?


Dev ChomeOS is getting there in regard to Office, not sure if you have seen this post from Francois:


@lwynne, exactly no on premises support for SkyDrive Pro currently. When they add that though then they'll still have a problem, because SkyDrive Pro doesn't integrate into any other vendors EMM products so we're right back where we started.

The solution is for Microsoft to offer the raw office binaries to customers so they can "wrap" them in their own MAM environments, or to partner with EMM ISVs to offer pre-wrapped versions of Office, or to add the SDK support for MAM vendors who go that route. (Citrix, Good, etc.) But I don't see Microsoft doing that anytime soon.


@Brian I knew I had spelt that wrong... When on premises support is available, don't you think the next wave of Microsoft inTune will deliver the MAM wrap around etc?  I have seen some pretty cool stuff on the road map.


Will future InTune offer wrapping and/or MAM-like control for on-premises SkyDrive Pro and Office for iOS? Probably. (Hopefully!) But that means that Office for iOS is only useable by enterprises who use InTune as their EMM tool. Given the huge EMM market of other solutions combined with the fact their are third party office apps for iOS today which are better than the official one from Microsoft, and the issue remains. Enterprises won't have a compelling reason to go to Office for iOS. And much like Office on Windows RT/8 isn't enough to get people to stop buying iPads, Office for iOS/InTune isn't going to be enough either.


I wrote a year ago that MS could build the ultimate MAM for iOS and Android solution, because all their basic apps would be the "official" versions.

For right now it looks like we can call this "too little, too late," but on the other hand, EMM is still young, and if MS ever did decide to put more into office for non-Windows device, this could be cool.


AKA MS wants to control the entire stack and make you pay a lot of $ for it. Best thing a customer can do, is reduce Microsoft spend on new technologies and force the EA discussion for feature they want.