Although the iPad is my device of choice for “relaxation centric” computing, I also use it as a serious productivity tool when I’m working.
In fact, most of my web research, e-communications, task management, and note-taking happens with my iPad. I now use my Mac mostly for more demanding things like video/media work, or when I need to do a lot of long-form typing or page layout projects.
This means that I am on a constant search for top-notch iPad apps that can support the range of things I want to use it for. And while I am fully committed to the overall Apple ecosystem – Mac, iPad and iPhone – there is one Windows application that I always wished had an equivalent Apple based implementation – especially on the iPad.
So why was a dedicated Apple geek like me waiting for a Microsoft application to port over to iOS?
A little history is in order… I have been looking for a satisfying, functional tablet form factor since people first started building any gadget even remotely similar to one. This started with PDA’s like the Newton and Palm, and eventually progressed to a Windows Tablet PC. And that is when I became a big fan of OneNote.
Around 5 years ago, I decided to give the Motion Computing Tablet computer a try. It was expensive and bulky, but seemed to be heading in the right direction. I had also seen a demo of the OneNote application that was bundled with it, and it seemed to be a perfect fit for the kinds of note taking/mind mapping things I envisioned doing with it.
Unfortunately, things didn’t work out as I had hoped. While the hardware was close (at least for its time), the whole Windows Tablet OS experience was just a disaster. As much as I tried, the Windows Tablet approach was simply unworkable for me as a general productivity platform, and I eventually gave up on it.
But I did maintain an appreciation for OneNote – the one bright spot of that experience.
Of course, not too long after that, the iPad came along and was finally able to deliver the tablet experience I had been searching for since the early Palm days. It quickly became a core piece of my productivity toolkit, and from that point, I shifted my focus to finding and integrating the best applications available for it that could integrate with my workflow.
Fast Forward to now…
I have to admit that I was both surprised and excited last week when Microsoft announced that they had finally released a version of OneNote for the iPad. Combining the core OneNote functionality I remembered with the iOS touch interface and iPad form factor seemed like an easy win for Microsoft (and a great way for them to validate their own upcoming tablet efforts). I was really thrilled that they decided to make the port.
Well – at least until I installed it.The iPad version of OneNote comes with just one notebook, and won’t let you create any new ones, or even add new pages to the one it comes with. What Microsoft ended up doing was creating a feature limited version of OneNote that can really only function as a satellite interface to OneNote for Windows. You are supposed to create your notebooks and pages in the Windows version of the product and sync them over to the iPad via Microsoft’s SkyDrive.
What a disappointment.
At the end of the day, there was no technical or experiential reason why Microsoft needed to cripple OneNote for iPad in this way and tie it to their Windows/Office versions. There was only a business reason for doing this. Unfortunately, by trying to develop a product that would please their accountants and investors, they ended up alienating what might be a far more important segment of the marketplace – the early adopters who could help them transition away from their dependency on legacy product lines. I wouldn’t be surprised if this approach ends up becoming a theme that Microsoft adopts with both Windows 8 and their mobile/tablet efforts – deprecating any version of a new product that may threaten one of their franchise revenue streams – effectively undermining their future to try and protect their past.
Ultimately, Microsoft needs to come to terms with the shifts that are already happening in the PC marketplace, namely that desktop computing (and more specifically mouse/keyboard computing) is being supplanted by mobile and embedded computing alternatives, and that high priced OS and application franchises are quickly being eroded by low cost or free alternatives. The more effort Microsoft invests in propping up their old products and unsustainable business models, the less relevant they will ultimately be going forward. It’s time for them to cut the cord with the past, and envision what a post-Windows, post-Office Suite world will look like.
Their customers and competitors already are…