…are a bit non-existent thanks to Microsoft’s old fashioned way of controlling software licensing.


I tasked the iPad with downloading the three new apps – Word, Excel and PowerPoint – overnight with a view to taking a first look during the next day.

Whilst on the train into London, I tried opening Word. After being presented with the welcome screen, up pops an Activation message


Unfortunately, the wi-fi on the train was too unreliable to complete the activation so I couldn’t even get as far as opening the app… Not a good start. But, to be fair, I don’t normally open an app for the first time on a train.

Once in London, with a more reliable 3G Mobile Broadband connection, the app activated successfully. On to the next screen


Hmmm… well I already have an Office 365 Enterprise subscription. I don’t want to buy a Home one as well.

Regardless, I tapped on the ‘Buy Office 365 for Home’ link guessing it should lead to other options


And sure enough, right at the bottom in small text is a link ‘I already have a subscription’. So I tap on that.


Epic fail. I’m not surprised that my Apple iTunes account isn’t associated with my Office 365 Enterprise account. They’ve never met before. But I have no idea how to create the association from this screen.

Now of course I can go to any mainstream Internet search engine and somebody is bound to have posted instructions. But it shouldn’t be this difficult just to open and try out the damned app. ‘View only’ is as useful as a PDF reader.

The frustration is this has nothing to do with the usual criticism targeted at Microsoft – poor design compared to Apple. This is about business models. Microsoft is struggling to cope with the shift towards mobile apps in the enterprise.

The struggle is understandable. Microsoft faces the classic Innovator’s Dilemma with traditional Office licenses representing 60% of current profits according to Bloomberg. But the approach being taken is flawed. They are acting the way they would like customers to behave instead of trying to deliver what customers want.

Microsoft is not the first to do this. Forbes published an article in 2012 looking at the problems facing Best Buy. The title of the article should sound a warning – Why Best Buy is Going Out of Business…. Gradually:

Best Buy does what would be most convenient for the company for consumers to want but don’t.

Sounds familiar. Particularly when you see comments in the App Store from people pleading with Microsoft to provide a simple paid app option instead of an ongoing monthly subscription.

The irony is that whilst I’ve been left frustrated with trying to use Office, one of the top 5 apps on my iPad is Microsoft’s OneNote. It’s the best note-taking app by far for me, and the iPad version has a more intuitive user interface than the full version installed on my laptop. It has also got better integration with an external keyboard than Apple’s own apps. Microsoft can do the design right. It’s the business model they’re struggling with.

Image source at start of this post: Microsoft

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