Blind to Opportunity


By Samuel Greengard

Last year, Apple sold more than 40 million iPads. In fact, the total number of iOS devices in use (iPhone, IPod Touches and iPads) is now somewhere north of 156 million. At this point, you would think that just about every software company in the known universe would have adapted its flagship product for the iOS platform.

Not Microsoft. Not Intuit.

It's hard to fathom why there's no iOS version of Microsoft Office. Current alternatives include Quick Office Pro and DataViz Documents to Go. There's also Cloud On, which provides a fully featured version of Office through the cloud and connects to Drop box and Box.net.

In other words, customers have a growing array of choices.

Rumors are swirling that Microsoft is readying an iOS version of Office, but the company has labeled these reports "inaccurate." Meanwhile, some observers contend that Microsoft will make Office a Windows-or-nothing proposition for iOS users by offering the suite only on the Windows 8 platform.

Regardless of the outcome, Microsoft is in serious trouble. Has anyone at the firm heard of the word agility? It shouldn't take two years and hundreds of millions of devices for an alarm clock to go off in Redmond. What's more, if the software giant is digging in its heels and hoping it can win by forcing people to adopt forthcoming Windows 8 tablets, it is sadly mistaken.

Intuit is in the same boat with Quicken. Incredibly, there's no iOS version of the program--though the company does offer cloud-based software called Mint. Even worse, Intuit was so slow getting a Mac version of Quicken updated for the Lion OS (the previous version wouldn't work on the platform) that swarms of once-loyal users migrated to iBank, Money dance and other (better?) financial packages. Does Intuit honestly think it's going to lure these former customers back?

The thing that these once innovative companies can't seem to grasp is that we've entered a new era with entirely different rules--including the fact that the consumer now rules. Innovation cycles occur over weeks or months, not years. Start-ups and niche providers can fill the gaps at Internet speed and permanently erase mind share and market share. It's death by 10,000 defecting customers.

I don't have a clue what goes on in strategy sessions at Microsoft, Intuit or any other company. What I do know is that 160 million users represent an incredibly attractive and lucrative market by any known definition. So, if you're not in a molten-hot market space that's on the leading edge of business, you're standing on the sidelines while your brand image and sales get dinged.

At some point, it's game, set, match--you lose.