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How Microsoft Corporation (MSFT) May Counter Apple Inc. (AAPL)’s Secret Weapon

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Whether you love your iPad or cannot live without your iPhone, one of the keys to Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL)‘s ability to win customers — and keep them — is the power of the iOS ecosystem. As Fool.com tech analyst Andrew Tonner points out, particularly when the company can lock you in across two separate devices, “it leads to extremely sticky consumer experiences.” Apple is arguably the best in the business at accomplishing this, leaving one to wonder how the competition can pry loose the typical Apple user.

Microsoft Corporation (MSFT)Unlike Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG) , which must establish a new paradigm — a task the company has proven quite skilled at — Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT) has a unique attraction that may be able to counter Apple’s grip on customers. Where the appeal of the iOS ecosystem creates barriers to change for a lot of us, the latent appeal of both Windows and Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT) Office has a similar draw. You may not want to go to the time or expense of converting everything in iTunes to a new format, but neither do you want to take all of your existing Office files and find new formats.

Microsoft for iOS?
In a recent interview with Bloomberg, Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT) CEO Steve Ballmer was asked directly about a Microsoft Office release for iOS. His answer was cagey at best:

I have nothing to say on that topic. We’re very glad with the product, very happy with the product that we’re putting in market. It makes sense on the devices like the Mac and the PC. We have a product that we think makes a lot of sense. We do have a way for people always to get to Office through the browser, which is very important. And we’ll see what we see in the future.

It’s been the subject of rumor for some time, but no official answer seems forthcoming.

While other productivity suites already exist for iOS, many of which are compatible with Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT) Office, none is a perfect replacement for the applications that are the standard for most users. The question facing Microsoft, then, is whether releasing a version of Office for Apple devices helps or hurts its overall efforts. There is certainly a reasonable argument to be made that, as a software company, Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT) benefits from having its programs included on the most diverse collection of devices possible. This is, of course, countered by the reality that having recently entered the tablet market and still struggling somewhat in the smartphone market, Microsoft may prefer to limit its software to its own devices. If users can stick with their Apple devices and still benefit from Office compatibility and design, they are likely to opt for this combination.

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