Microsoft Tries To Discredit iWork As Competition, But Ends Up Looking Desperate

Apple has turned software pricing on its head, and Microsoft isn't happy about it.

Apple has turned software pricing on its head, and Microsoft isn’t happy about it.

Yesterday Apple announced that all of its consumer software, including OS X Mavericks, is now free. Customers who buy Apple’s hardware will have full access to the completely new versions of iLife and iWork at no additional cost. It’s a bold move that The New York Times called a direct attack on Microsoft Office.

The decision to make iWork free wasn’t Apple’s only jab at Microsoft during yesterday’s keynote, and now the Redmond giant has gone on the defensive.

“Seems like the RDF (Reality Distortion Field) typically generated by an Apple event has extended beyond Cupertino,” wrote Microsoft VP of Communications Frank Shaw on the company’s official blog today. He called iWork “less popular and less powerful” when compared with Office.

Pages, Keynote and Numbers have all received major updates and gone free with the purchase of an Apple Mac or iOS device.

Pages, Keynote and Numbers have all received major updates and gone free with the purchase of an Apple Mac or iOS device.

“Since iWork has never gotten much traction, and was already priced like an afterthought, it’s hardly that surprising or significant a move,” said Shaw. “So, 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.”

It’s true that iWork has been in need of a redesign for quite some time, but now that it has been modernized, upgraded with cloud collaboration tools, and made free to Apple customers, what little wind was left under Office’s sail is gone.

Microsoft’s Office 365 subscription costs $99 per year, a price that makes hardly any sense to the average Mac user who can use Pages, Keynote and Numbers for free. And Microsoft has kept Office for iPad at bay for years (a poorly received iPhone app was finally released this summer) while simultaneously running marketing campaigns that call out the iPad for lacking Office support.

Frank Shaw also used his Apple bashing as an opportunity to tout the Surface, a tablet Microsoft can’t pay people to use. “Since we launched the Surface line of tablets last year, one of the themes we’ve consistently used to talk about them is that they are a terrific blend of productivity and entertainment in one lightweight, affordable package. In fact, we’re confident that they offer the best combination of those capabilities available on the market today.”

“The Surface is the most productive tablet you can buy today.” Really?

Shaw went on to describe how the design of the Surface wasn’t an accident; Microsoft wanted to create a product that was great for getting things done and having fun. That’s a fine vision, but Surface sales are basically nonexistent because it’s a confusing product and no one wants to actually use Windows the way Microsoft imagined.

“The Surface is the most productive tablet you can buy today,” according to Shaw. Really?

Microsoft Tries To Discredit iWork As Competition, But Ends Up Looking Desperate

At yesterday’s event, Tim Cook revealed that 170 million iPads have been sold since 2010. Cook also said that the competition is confused. “They chased after netbooks. Now they’re trying to make PCs into tablets and tablets into PCs.”

The Surface came out last year, and while Microsoft won’t release sales numbers, everyone agrees that it has been a major flop. And with Office’s glory days quickly fading from memory, Microsoft has resorted to pointing fingers.

  • sudoaptgeek

    Looks like someone had a little smoke before posting to the MS blog…

  • chris1moon

    resorted*

  • flyingorlando

    Not a bazillion of functions in iWork? Right, that’s why it is so easy to use! Bet we will soon see something similar from Redmond, but by far not as easy and elegant…

  • scatteredthings

    Their shot may have been across Microsoft’s bow, Alex, but it will land on independent developers. Apple’s continued push to devalue software on the Mac and iOS platforms entirely will really only hurt those who build their livelihoods on it. You guys have discussed on the CultCast how the low price of Apple’s iOS software has dragged the price that consumers think is ‘reasonable’ for apps right down to 99c. Now that it’s all free, including both OSes, that ‘reasonable’ price will drop again. Apple is screwing its developers. Period.

  • aardman

    Their shot may have been across Microsoft’s bow, Alex, but it will land on independent developers. Apple’s continued push to devalue software on the Mac and iOS platforms entirely will really only hurt those who build their livelihoods on it. You guys have discussed on the CultCast how the low price of Apple’s iOS software has dragged the price that consumers think is ‘reasonable’ for apps right down to 99c. Now that it’s all free, including both OSes, that ‘reasonable’ price will drop again. Apple is screwing its developers. Period.

    Competition and free enterprise is such a party pooper, ain’t it?

  • dfay

    I’m not a fan of MS Office, but take a look at the uproar in the iWork discussion forums over the many, many features that have been eliminated across the iWork suite with the new versions. I had been hoping to transition from Excel (by far the best part of Office) to Numbers, but the new release kills that possibility.

  • Kendall Tawes

    I’m not a fan of MS Office, but take a look at the uproar in the iWork discussion forums over the many, many features that have been eliminated across the iWork suite with the new versions. I had been hoping to transition from Excel (by far the best part of Office) to Numbers, but the new release kills that possibility.

    What features are missing? I haven’t really played around with the new version yet and would like to know what was left off.

  • iFan41

    Microsoft who?

  • Gregory Wright

    On one hand I can’t blame Microsoft for appearing desperate because its chief competitor is giving its software away. But, I think its poor taste to publicly cast aspersions on a competitor. It does not look good for a reputable company to willow in the mud.

  • peterbreis
    What features are missing? I haven’t really played around with the new version yet and would like to know what was left off.

    56 major features have been totally removed from Pages 5. So it is more a question of what has been left in, rather than what has been left out. Because of the missing features, Pages ’09 documents opened in Pages 5 are being trashed to various degrees.

    Sadly being “free” means Apple doesn’t have to make a case for iWork, users no longer have a say in how good or functional it really is.

    https://discussions.apple.com/thread/5468056?start=105&tstart=0

  • Steven Quan

    Microsoft who?

    Microsoft, the company that runs the software on the computer in your home. Microsoft, the company that makes the software that runs your neighbor’s computers along your street, the company that make the software that runs your mailman’s computer? Yea, that Microsoft.

  • Paul Burt
    Microsoft who?

    Microsoft, the company that runs the software on the computer in your home. Microsoft, the company that makes the software that runs your neighbor’s computers along your street, the company that make the software that runs your mailman’s computer? Yea, that Microsoft.

    Who?

    The name on mine, my family’s and most of my friends’ computers says Apple.

About the author

Alex HeathAlex Heath is a staff writer at Cult of Mac and co-host of the CultCast. He has been quoted by the likes of the BBC, KRON 4 News, and books like "ICONIC: A Photographic Tribute to Apple Innovation." If you want to pitch a story, share a tip, or just get in touch, additional contact information is available on his personal site. Twitter always works too.

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