Microsoft's Office Mobile for iPhone is a "half-baked" effort that breaks basic features like file compatibility, according to the chief executive of rival CloudOn, which provides Office compatibility across the Apple iPhone, iPad, and Android platforms.
However, Milind Gadekar, CloudOn's chief executive, acknowledged that Microsoft's offering was superior in its offline capabilities, a lead that it hopes to erase throughout the rest of the year.
Microsoft released Office Mobile for iPad early on Friday, via a "free" utility that requires an annual $100 Office 365 subscription to use. CloudOn, however, provides users with the ability to access a stored copy of Office in the cloud, for free, with the ability to save documents to a number of online storage providers. On the other hand, it requires a persistent online connection, and can suffer a performance hit if the connection is poor or drops.
Nevertheless, CloudOn's true Office compatibility and ability to export documents to a number of providers makes its solution the right one if an iOS user wants Office compatibility, Gadekar said. It already boasts 4 million users, he said.
Office for Mobile allows users to open, edit, and save Word and Excel files. But it doesn't offer features like "Track Changes," which allows users to, well, monitor the changes made to a file.
"One should assume that file compatibility should work," Gadekar said. "If I'm a lawyer, and I live and breathe with Track Changes, and my whole life revolves around Track Changes, one would expect that Track Changes should work if I bring up a Word document on an iPhone. And it doesn't."
That's true, according to one paralegal PCWorld contacted, who asked not to be named. Changes are needed so a lawyer can approach a problem critically and make sure the elements of the case are properly noted.
Office Mobile: Half baked?
Gadekar also went on to imply that Microsoft had released Office Mobile before it was fully done.
"Microsoft's model is to release a version of the software and then iterate until they get it right," Gadekar said. "Now consumers will either adopt the product or walk away from the product. Putting out a half-baked product could be disastrous, and in some sense it feels that, at least in the first version of it, especially around areas of file compatibility, where images do not show up, and you do not have the ability to add a spreadsheet, these are very basic capabilities that one should assume should exist."
PCWorld asked Microsoft to comment on Gadekar's quote. At press time, the company had not responded.
Wes Miller, an analyst at Directions on Microsoft, said in an interview this week that there could eventually be three levels of Office: one for the iPhone, with the ability to access documents and do light editing; a more full-featured version for the iPad; and a "full" version of Office for the Mac or other desktop platforms.
Gadekar said that he saw similar layers of functionality: an "access" layer, a "review" layer, and a "heavy editing" aspect. The first two could be performed offline, he said, with only the third requiring a persistent level of connection.
CloudOn's plan is to address those issues in the coming months, Gadekar said. The company's roadmap calls for collaborative sharing and editing of documents by this summer, with additional improvements throughout the rest of the year. By the fourth quarter, he said, some of the offline functionality for the access and review aspects of CloudOn should be enabled.
Gadekar also addressed questions of network connectivity, which can be a source of headaches when using a cloud-based service like CloudOn. There is an advantage to a native application, he admitted, especially when dealing with the unpredictability of a network interface. "We continue to make investments to help improve the experience," he said.