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Microsoft Office on iPad: Will New Third-Party App Spell Trouble for Surface?

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Business users will likely try out HopTo.

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Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) still hasn't brought Office to the most popular tablet on the market, but a new productivity app called HopTo (OTCBB:HPTO) is making it easier to use Office and edit documents in the cloud.

"With HopTo, we are providing the most powerful mobile productivity app available to the tens of millions of iPad users, elevating their tablet to an extensive personal and business mobile productivity solution," said Eldad Eilam, CEO of HopTo, in a press release. "Professionals who are constantly required to be accessible and responsive while on the go now have an easy-to-use, more complete way to succeed in the 'always-on' world."

The free app went live yesterday. From the looks of the promos and early reviews, it would appear that HopTo not only beats Apple's (NASDAQ:AAPL) native iWork productivity apps, but also blows away Microsoft's virtualized cloud-based versions of Word and Excel that work in a browser window (for a monthly fee). Other paid apps for virtualizing a Windows PC, such as Parallels, are laggy and expensive.

To access Office through HopTo, users must already own a licensed copy of the program. Once launched, the app offers PC-like multitasking and file management with access to the hard drive, Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) Drive, Box, and Dropbox.



Since Apple debuted the iPad, Microsoft has been hesitant to release a version of Office for the tablet. Last month, CEO Steve Ballmer said that though a rudimentary version of Office is available for the iPhone, an iPad version will have to wait until Microsoft comes up with a more touch-optimized interface for Office. However, the business world isn't waiting for Redmond's go-ahead to start adopting the iPad.

According to a report by Good Technology, Apple is already dominating enterprise adoption. In the June-September quarter, 90% of enterprise activations of tablets were for iPads. Also, 65% of corporate IT professionals say that their companies have a bring-your-own-device policy and 23% are working on implementing one. This underscores why HopTo is such a game-changer.

Office is the killer app for business. Even though the interface is error-prone enough to completely mislead the profession of economics for years and lead to miserable austerity policies on both sides of the Atlantic, Excel and Word are still the business world's lingua franca. The last thing anyone wants to do is work on a presentation on one device and then find out that it will look terrible on another computer. Slight incompatibilities with disastrous potential consequences have allowed Office to maintain its relevance and contribute significantly to Microsoft's bottom line.

Since HopTo still requires an Office license under the hood, Microsoft can keep that cash cow, but the new app's ability to allow multitasking and access to real Office apps (PowerPoint is viewable, but not yet editable) takes away the main selling point for Windows tablets like the Surface.

Twitter: @vincent_trivett

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No positions in stocks mentioned.
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