MS Office for iPad

Suddenly, there is chatter – from tech journalists, folks on App.net, etc. – regarding an iPad version of Microsoft Office: Coming sooner than you think, the rumors say, and better than you expect.

Missing from all this is a reason why I would even want such a thing, let alone pay actual cash money for it.

I got into the various Office applications a long time ago. (It may have been before MS Office even existed; records are spotty.) My first version of MS Word was still a DOS program, running in text mode with Simonyi’s wonky menu system; MS Excel was a Windows app, but had to ship with a ‘Windows runtime’ because in nineteen eighty-mumble nobody was running Windows yet.

(Excel was not happy on a 640K machine. Entering any formula more complex than 2+2 would consume all memory & crash Excel.)

I dutifully spun the software-upgrade hamster wheel, buying each new release of Excel and Word; unlike most of my software purchases from that time, I did actually use both of them, and built up a small collection of documents.

In 1995, I bought Office 95: mostly because it was cheaper than individual application upgrades, but also to get Access. (Why Access? Databases. My obsession with data goes way back.) I don’t remember whether I bought Office 97, but I did buy Office 2000 – or, more accurately, prevailed upon connections at Microsoft to send me a copy from the MS company store.

I don’t remember how much I paid for Office 2000. $20? $50? Whatever the precise amount, it was a bargain.

It was also the beginning of the end. I did not upgrade to Office XP, nor to Office 2003. I tried to use Outlook XP at work; it was vile. I upgraded to Outlook 2003; it was no better. I switched to Thunderbird.

In 2006, I bought the iMac, and Office 2004 for the Mac. Office 2004 was a disappointment, ugly & awkward. (That’s what happens when your application developers rely on technologies your OS developers refuse to port to a non-Windows OS: you’re forced to write an emulation layer, your application stinks, and you lose customers.) I used it because there were no feasible alternatives.

In 2011, I bought the MacBook, and also iWork. (Not quite. I bought Numbers, and Pages; but not Keynote. In thirty years, I have never encountered a need for presentation software. I never present.) And I discovered – much to my surprise – that I didn’t need Microsoft any more.

I do have one Microsoft app on the iPad & iPhone: a Remote Desktop client. I thought I would use it to connect to the build machines at work; but I never do. Aside from that, I have no Microsoft software.

I didn’t decide to get rid of Microsoft. I didn’t actively search for alternatives. I wasn’t making a political statement. (The open-source crowd is always doing that. So tedious.) But gradually, over a period of years, a series of What’s best / cheapest / easiest? decisions (large and small) have removed Microsoft from my personal computing.

I don’t miss it.

I have Numbers and Pages, and I’ve converted all my documents. Converting back would be a pain. Why should I buy MS Office for iOS?

I imagine there *are* people who spend all day in Excel, but they’re probably running it on Windows XP. (The bolder ones upgraded to Vista – in 2013.) Why should any of them buy MS Office for iOS?

So that’s a big meh on Office for iOS.