At Tuesday's Apple event, CEO Tim Cook announced that the newest iteration of OS X, Mavericks, would be free. Not only that, but the new versions of iLife and iWork would be free as well. There was a couple of little snipes about competitors charging big bucks for OS upgrades and Apple's new software pricing turning the industry on its ear. At one point, a copy of Windows 8 Pro and its $199 price tag flashed up on screen and Craig Federighi, senior vice president of Software Engineering, declared: "The days of spending hundreds of dollars to get the most out of your computer are gone." Now, you didn't expect Microsoft to just let that go, did you?
Frank Shaw, Corporate Vice President of Communications at Microsoft, published a blog post this week titled 'Apples and Oranges.' In it, he expresses the need to 'clear some things up' regarding Apple's event. The short version of his post is that the Surface and Surface 2 both include Office and both cost less than the iPad 2 and iPad Air. This he says, means Apple's decision to "build the price of their less popular and less powerful iWork into their tablets not a very big (or very good) deal." Ouch. He goes on to wax lyrical about the Surface and its ability to cover both elements of the user's life, seamlessly blending work and play in one device.
Shaw later adds that the Surface and Surface 2 offer more storage than the iPad 2 and iPad Air respectively and come with full versions of Office 2013 as opposed to 'non-standard, non-cross-platform, imitation apps that can't share docs with the rest of the world.' What's more, the surface allows you to open multiple windows, and comes with additional support for USB, SD cards, and that all important kickstand. Bottom line: Shaw believes Apple's decision to make iWork free is an attempt to catch up to Microsoft and the Surface's productivity prowess than anything else, and no one does productivity better than Microsoft.
While Shaw does have a point in saying Office is the 'gold standard' for productivity (his words, not ours), there's no better price than free if you're looking to boost your userbase. It's also not exactly fair to paint the iPad as a machine that is incapable of both work and play, especially since more and more people are using their iPads for work on the go. The fact is, the tablet industry is still new, particularly in the context of mobile productivity, which means its also ripe for some fresh competition.