Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer

Remember when Microsoft Office ruled the world? Office files were so ubiquitous, and so proprietary, that the entire personal computing industry hinged on whether or not a given device could run Office. No more. After years of foot-dragging, Microsoft recently released Office for the iPhone.

Did you notice? We did, and had a definite meh feeling about it.

One reason it may not have crossed your radar, as The New York Times' David Pogue points out, is that Microsoft is only making Office available for the iPhone to Office 365 customers. That probably doesn't include you.

Why? Because as good as Office 365 is, it's hard to come up with a good reason to subscribe to it. When was the last time that Microsoft released an Office feature that you really, desperately needed? Maybe 10 years ago? If you have an old copy of Office sitting on your hard drive somewhere, you probably see little reason to upgrade to a cloud version, or any other newer version.

Office simply doesn't matter very much anymore.

Back When Office Mattered...

This wasn't always the case, of course. I avoided buying a Mac until Microsoft made the platform fit for the enterprise by building a version of Office for the Mac in 1997. But for Microsoft's gesture, almost certainly intended to deflect U.S. antitrust attention on Microsoft's monopolies in the PC market, I would never have bought a Mac.

Fast forward to 2013, and no one considers Office when buying an iPhone, iPad or the equivalent Android devices. And Office, which has been available on Windows smartphones for some time, hasn't been enough to fuel Windows smartphone or tablet sales. Even though such mobile devices are very much a part of enterprise computing today, we simply don't care if they run Office, because Office doesn't fit the way we work anymore.

Microsoft Capitulates A Decade Too Late

Microsoft's release of Office for the iPhone, in whatever form, feels very much like a belated capitulation, as Pogue suggests:

Office for iPhone is big news, but not because the software is earthshaking. No, it’s a big deal primarily because of the politics of the situation….Here is Microsoft - the once-mighty software global overlord, years into its repeated failures to produce a successful smartphone - creating an app that lets you edit Word, Excel and PowerPoint files on the gadget that defeated it, the iPhone.

Microsoft will continue to print billions of dollars in profits each quarter, the spoils of its hard-fought 1990s office productivity suite hegemony. But I suspect you aren't going to be rushing out to subscribe to Office 365 in order to get access. Would you buy a copy if Microsoft made it a $0.99 download on iTunes?

Probably. Just like that one song to which you used to listen.