Microsoft calls free iWork apps 'watered down' compared to Office

Microsoft Surface Office vs iPad iWork
Surface with Office vs iPad with iWork: a literal free-for-all

Apple announced that its iWork suite is free with all new Mac and iOS device purchases, but it sounds like you couldn't even pay Microsoft to use what it calls "watered down" apps.

"iWork has never gotten much traction, and was already priced like an afterthought," wrote Frank Shaw, Microsoft's corporate vice president of communications, of the Office competitor in an official blog post.

"When I see Apple drop the price of their struggling, lightweight productivity apps, I don't see a shot across our bow, I see an attempt to play catch up."

The Microsoft executive doesn't think that Apple has quite caught up, either. He blasted the Cupertino company for its lack of true multitasking and a precision input like the Touch Cover 2 for Surface 2 tablets.

Apple was rumored to be testing an iPad keyboard accessory along the lines of the Touch Cover, but the fabled attachment was a no-show at yesterday's iPad Air event.

Eye for an eye?

Shaw's comments are in response to less-than-veiled criticism from Apple CEO Tim Cook who called the competition "confused."

"Our competition is different. They're confused. They chased after netbooks. Now they're trying to make PC into tablets and tablets into PCs. Who knows what they will do next?" Cook posed in a thinly disguised jab at Microsoft.

Later in the presentation, when announcing iWork's new collaboration feature, Eddy Cue, Apple's senior vice president of internet software and services, threw in his own Office punches.

"Now you can create a document on your iPad, edit on your Mac, and even collaborate with your friend who is stuck on a PC," he said to some mild laughter.

"Others would have you spend a small fortune every year just to get their apps," he announced in front of an exploding $99 (about £62, AU$104) Office for Windows product box.

"We want to do something bold, something that changes the rule of the game. We're taking all of these productivity apps and making them for free with the purchase of a Mac or iOS [device]."

Office 365 vs iWork

Apple showed it can 'destroy' Office 365 pricing

Pwning in productivity

Shaw is known for his blitzes on competitors, and he continued his post by not only slamming Apple's presser but by lauding ample praise on Microsoft's new line of Surface tablets and its Office software.

"Surface and Surface 2 both include Office, the world's most popular, most powerful productivity software for free and are priced below both the iPad 2 and iPad Air respectively," he noted.

"Apple's decision to build the price of their less popular and less powerful iWork into their tablets [is] not a very big (or very good) deal."

Shaw wrote that Microsoft saw too many people carrying around two devices - one for work and one for play. Surface control-alt-deletes the extra cost, weight and complexity of dual carrying.

"Helping folks kill time on a tablet is relatively easy," he wrote.

"Helping people be productive on a tablet is a little trickier. It takes an understanding of how people actually work, how they get things done, and how to best support the way they do things already."

Media are caught in the crossfire

Microsoft "understands how people work better than anyone else on the planet," Shaw opined.

But, in his eyes, that belief wasn't ubiquitous among journalists writing about yesterday's Apple event.

"It's much harder to get work done on a device that lacks precision input and a desktop for true side-by-side multitasking," he wrote. "You wouldn't know that from reading some of the coverage I've read today.

"Perhaps attendees at Apple's event were required to work on iOS devices that don't allow them to have two windows open for side-by-side comparisons, so let me help them out by highlighting [the benefits of Surface and Office]."

Shaw continued with more Surface and Office praise and ended his blog post with a smiley emoticon, which even with all of the press criticism, always makes up for everything in life.

Matt Swider