A couple of years ago, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella made a very public announcement that the company would focus on mobile first, cloud first solutions. The phrase, albeit a bit confusing at first, meant that the software first company would focus on delivering products across platforms and devices rather than engaging in some of its previous business models that encouraged ecosystem lock-in.
The multi-platform development charge from Microsoft was headed by the release of Office apps specifically designed for iOS and Android operating systems and devices. While the news arguably shook the mobile industry at its foundations, however, when the dust settled, it would seem the company's efforts may ultimately have been 'too little too late'.
Last year, reports surfaced indicating that Google's preloaded productivity apps were seeing far more usage in the real world than Microsoft's recently released Office apps on mobile devices. When reported, OnMSFT pointed out that Android is the most widely used mobile operating system in existence currently and through integration, Android users are just a click away from Google Work apps.
New evidence from 7parkdata.com is showing that the trend has continued through much of 2016, with the exception of Microsoft's Excel app on Android.
According to stats sourced from a panel of millions of mobile Android users in the United States, Microsoft's Office apps have seen some bumps in usage and downloads but ultimately have stagnated or declined when compared to other productivity apps in the Android ecosystem. Key findings from 7parkdata include:
- Excel was the most frequently installed and used app. By the end of 2016, Excel had a higher number of monthly active users (MAUs) than Google Sheets, even though the latter had a higher number of installs. Excel is the only Microsoft app that is outperforming its Google competition on Android devices.
- Microsoft OneNote (whose main competitor is Evernote) saw some growth in installs in 2016, but stagnated towards the end of the year. In October 2016, when Microsoft launched new features and reintroduced old favorites, the app saw a sharp growth in active users, but it didn't last. In the meantime, Evernote, despite a slight decline in MAUs in 2016, didn’t experience any significant changes.
- Other Microsoft apps have either stagnated or been in decline, experiencing some short-lived growth spurts around updates. Uncoupling and marketing Excel as a standalone app has served well for Microsoft in gaining new active users and competing with other apps in the category.
For a bit of reference, Comscore recently released its monthly list of Top 15 Smartphone Apps and once again Microsoft's Office apps were left out of the party with Facebook topping the list and Google Drive bringing up the rear. Comscore's numbers reinforce the notion that preloaded apps on a platform are typically easier to promote than stand alone apps from 3rd party developers with Facebook, Instagram, Pandora, Snapcat and Amazon Mobile being the five exceptions for the month of December in 2016.
# Top 15 Apps % Reach
1 Facebook 79.9%
2 Facebook Messenger 73.1%
3 YouTube 68.2%
4 Google Search 62.9%
5 Google Maps 57.1%
6 Google Play 52.4%
7 Gmail 48.8%
8 Instagram 45.7%
9 Snapchat 42.5%
10 Pandora Radio 41.5%
11 Google Calendar 37.6%
12 Amazon Mobile 36.8%
13 Apple Music* 29.5%
14 Apple Maps 28.2%
15 Google Drive 26.2%
Despite Microsoft revealing that Office being on 65 million active devices, Comscore and 7parkdata highlighting the benefits of pre-loaded cross function app promotion on a single platform being fairly essential in consumer usage. The question that could begin to arise for Microsoft soon is whether Satya Nadella's mantra of mobile first, cloud first can hold up against years of institutionalized ecosystem lock-in behavior?