Sunday, June 17, 2012

Office for iOS - Bad Strategy?

In this week’s reading article “The Perils of Bad Strategy” by Richard Rumelt, Rumelt dilutes the hallmarks of bad strategy into four precise points: the failure to face the challenge, mistaking goals for strategy, bad strategic objectives, and fluff.

While reading through the article, I began drawing parallels to Microsoft's Office strategy in 3/4 of the said qualities above. Almost on a daily basis, I am inconvenienced by Microsoft's decision, or lack there of, to not create an Office version for Apple's mobile operating system, iOS. As I know I'm not alone with this annoyance, I always find myself asking what Microsoft's Office strategy really is.

Failure to face the problem. As stated by Rumelt, if the challenge is not defined, it is difficult or impossible to assess the quality of the strategy. And, if you cannot assess that, you cannot reject a bad strategy to improve a good one. I'm sure Microsoft has continually analyzed the tablet niche since Apple pioneered and created the uncontested market space that shows both untapped revenue streams and potentially the creation  of the killer device that may ultimately mark the end for general PCs.

However, in my eyes, Microsoft has failed to face the problem. According to Gartner's projections, Apple's iPad is expected to still have more than half the table market in 2015, and the tablet market itself is set to explode over the next four years, selling 60% as many units as PCs. Microsoft doesn't just build operating systems, they develop business software. They potentially are missing over 50% of the new tablet market (leaving a gap for competitors to fill and begin undermining their global stranglehold on office productivity applications, and subsequently the expensive licenses fees businesses have to pay to use them).

Mistaking goals for strategy. I view Microsoft's mobile Office strategy as an undeveloped and slightly delusional plan without clearly defined objectives. Almost viewing it as akin to Mr. Magoo wanting to go to a grocery store without taking a cab; he's so focused on his fuzzy goal that he ends up at a farm's garden instead of the produce section of the grocery store.

Microsoft is so focused on building a Windows 8 tablet (set to launch in November 2012) to compete against the iPad, or any other tablet, they are are creating blinders to their overall potential.

Bad strategic objectives. According to Rumelt, a long list of to-do's, often mislabeled as strategies or objects, is not a strategy. With the said November 2012 launch date ("objective") of the Microsoft tablet, I'm sure the organization has been working diligently to bring the product to market (missing the Office opportunities in the process).

I do agree that it is obviously tempting for Microsoft to try and keep their flagship Office products exclusive to their own OS, but long ago they decided make it cross platform compatible for the Apple's Mac. That said, why should be iOS be any different?

Rumelt, R. (2011). "The Perils of Bad Strategy".
        McKinsey Quarterly, (2011, 1): 30-39.

Arthur, C. (2011). iPad to dominate tablet sales until 2015 as growth explodes, says Gartner.
        Retrieved June 17th from:

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