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That’s how many Office documents were made last year, according to Chris Flores, director of communication for Microsoft’s Windows group.
He dropped this nugget in a conversation about the future of Windows.
I’m at MWC, the big mobile industry event in Barcelona. I spent an hour with Flores talking about Windows.
If you’ve been paying attention, you know it hasn’t been the best of times for Windows.
Since 2011, the Windows business has gone sideways. Part of the reason the Windows business has stalled is the rise of the iPad, and other tablet computers, which offer a good-enough computing experience at a low price, making it so you don’t need a brand new PC.
Flores attributed the lack of growth to a lackluster economy, and computers that last longer.
Microsoft tried to reinvigorate Windows with Windows 8, a design that attempts to be all things to all people. It has a tablet interface and a traditional desktop interface.
Windows 8 has been controversial, or as Flores put it: “People are passionate about Windows.” Many people don’t like the radical redesign with a heavy emphasis on the tiles. It’s a jarring change from what they’ve know for the past 20 years.
Despite the “passion” from consumers, Flores is convinced that Microsoft is on the right path with Windows 8.
His view of why Microsoft’s on the right path with Windows 8: When you see people with iPads at conferences like MWC, many are bolting on keyboards, trying to make them more useful. In Microsoft’s eyes, this means people are dying to do more work on their tablets, but iOS is so limited that they can’t really do work.
Windows 8 offers users the best of both worlds. It offers a full PC work environment and a tablet like interface. You can bolt on a keyboard, and use a mouse with it, just like a normal computer. Or, you can do lightweight computing like on an iPad.
Microsoft’s argument boils down to this: Would you rather have two devices or one device? Would you rather carry an iPad and a MacBook, or just a Surface, or Windows 8 hybrid? As Flores put it to me: Wouldn’t you like to be able to detach your MacBook screen when you walk away? And plug it back in when you’re at your desk?
The problem with this story? While it sounds lovely, and makes sense on paper — one device instead of two? Sure! — it’s not working in the real world. People are still choosing iPads, iPhones, and then, maybe a PC. (Consumer PC sales are dropping by double digits.)
Flores believes Microsoft just needs to do a better job of telling people that they can have one device, a tablet, that can do everything. Once people realize that a Windows device can do both standard computing tasks like Office, and tablet computing tasks, Flores believes they’ll love it.
When I asked Flores what can you do on a Windows tablet that you can’t do on an iPad, he quickly rattled off the Office suite — Word, Excel, PowerPoint, etc. This is pretty much true. Microsoft hasn’t made a full suite of Office apps for the iPad.
So I asked him if maybe Office wasn’t that big of a deal. Since Microsoft has sat out the rise of Android and iOS, hundreds of millions of users are doing just fine without Office on their phones and tablets. Personally, I use Evernote for everything instead of Word.
That’s when Flores told me that last year there were 500 billion office documents created last year. His point is that Office is still a big, loved suite of applications.
Which is true! But, Office is coming to the iPad this year. And at that point, Microsoft won’t be able to make the case that the iPad is no good for working. At that point, it will have to come up with a new story about why you should pick Windows over iOS.
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