Not Actually a Product Review: MS Office Mobile

Posted: May 2, 2014 in Uncategorized

© 2014 G.N. Jacobs

Normally, I’d be all over Microsoft’s recent release of a mobile (iOS and Android) version of their Office suite. Since they’ve done a great job of A) smashing all competitors (Word Perfect and possibly Pages, we’ll see) and B) finally creating a good word processor once said competition has been well and truly buried, anyone commenting on tools that writers might actually use should discuss the doings of the 800-Pound Gorilla’s monopoly product. In a perfect world with a less extractive marketing plan…sure. In the real world, there is no way I can review or use Office Mobile…ever.

The fine print on the app listing that I saw following a link from my backgammon app says that to actually use Word, Excel or Powerpoint I would have to purchase a Microsoft Office 365 account. Without this brand of cloud account, the user can only use the office apps to look at their files. I hate to break it to you fellas, but since Documents to Go (my old mobile office suite), Quickoffice (my new tool) and Dropbox all got into the mobile environment first with key pieces of the puzzle answering the question – How do I write, edit and distribute my work across my devices and to any friends with the least cost and hassle? – I don’t need yet another app to look at my files…even if the base app is free.

My objection to Microsoft Office 365 is fundamental at the level of I will use a manual typewriter before subscribing to rent tools that should be bought. If Microsoft stops supporting earlier versions (for me Office for Mac 2011) in favor of exclusively supporting Office 365, I will have some decision making to do. Luckily, I have one install left on my current disk to go on my next Apple. Why am I do down on Office 365? Money.

The older versions of Office and specifically Word may have been forced on me by the publishers with whom I occasionally submit stories, but I grew used to the interface. My work, then and now, was only limited by my imagination and typing speed. Before I figured out the dodge of buying the Student and Teachers edition, I would pay about $300 for Word, Excel and Powerpoint. After discovering the Student and Teachers version when buying my current zombie-MacBook, I paid $150 for each version of Office for Mac (2008 and 2011) that I used and/or still use. Office 365 has two yearly payment plans, a low-data in the cloud version for $70 and full yearly usage for $99.

Doing the cost-benefit analysis. I spent $300 for seven years of usage with two similar office suites. I would have spent $700 for the same word processing, spreadsheets and presentations if Office 365 had been available in 2007. I am already plus $400. Suck it!

Okay, I will grant that my savings wouldn’t have been so good, if I’d been a stickler for the fact that I’m not a teacher and am otherwise terrified of more school. But, even spending a total of $600 over the same seven years still marginally edges out the cloud service.

Why did Microsoft change their pricing plan? Well, I’m reasonably certain they saw how well Netflix, Hulu, HBO and Spotify were doing with mobile entertainment subscription apps and decided to do something similar with Office. Yes…when the intellectual property is entertainment, you do have to pay the copyright holder something to acknowledge taking a financial risk to bring you distraction. But, when that intellectual property can also be defined as a tool like a typewriter or hammer, my suspension of disbelief and willingness to pay is quite limited. Possibly, it’s a price issue that at $50/year might seem more affordable and thus more tolerable. Nah…never happen, because there are alternatives, some of which are free because the purpose is traffic that leads to cash flow in other parts of the Internet system. My current setup is Quickoffice (a recent Google purchase) married to a Dropbox account, but GoogleDocs married to Google Drive could also work and still be free.

If it comes to it, I carry pens and pads around…and have several typewriters.

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