Thursday, October 24, 2013

Microsoft exec scoffs at talk that Apple's free iWork threatens Office

Microsoft's head of communications took shots today at Apple's decision to give away its iWork productivity software, calling the move "an attempt to catch up."

In a post to the Official Microsoft Blog, Frank Shaw countered what he said was misguided at best, reality-bending at worst, coverage by the media and blogosphere on Apple's giving away iWork to new Mac and iOS device buyers.

[ Also on InfoWorld: The must-have iPad office apps, round 7. | For quick, smart takes on the news you'll be talking about, check out InfoWorld TechBrief -- subscribe today. ]

Apple made that announcement Tuesday during an 80-minute event in San Francisco, where executives touted new iPads, lower-priced MacBook Pros, and declared OS X Mavericks and the iWork apps would be free to segments of the Mac installed base.

"Seems like the RDF (Reality Distortion Field) typically generated by an Apple event has extended beyond Cupertino," Shaw wrote. "So let me try to clear some things up."

Shaw took exception to the conclusions by some pundits that the Apple maneuver was a shot at rival Microsoft, and that by throwing in iWork with a new Mac, iPhone, or iPad, Microsoft's Office franchise, the Redmond, Wash., company's business model and its tablet strategy were threatened.

"When I see Apple drop the price of their struggling, lightweight productivity apps, I don't see a shot across our bow, I see an attempt to play catch-up," said Shaw.

But Patrick Moorhead, principal analyst with Moor Insights & Strategy, saw it as exactly that: A shot. "I don't know any other way to interpret that than to say Apple was going after Microsoft," said Moorhead.

The "that" Moorhead was talking about was the slide shown behind Eddy Cue, Apple's head of Internet software and services, yesterday just before Cue announced that iWork would be free for new device buyers. That slide displayed the logo of Office 365, Microsoft's software subscription service, and cited $99 as the annual price for Home Premium, the consumer SKU.

Shaw has lashed out at the press over reports or at bloggers over their interpretations of news before. In May, he decried negative coverage of Windows 8 in general, and the update then code-named Windows "Blue" in particular. He took special exception to news and news analysis stories that compared Blue's restoration of the Start button to Coca-Cola's "New Coke" disaster of nearly thirty years ago.

Windows Blue was later named Windows 8.1, the free update that launched last week.

More recently, Shaw called out the media over how it handled news of current Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer's retirement announcement two months ago.

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