CloudOn, a Startup With the Chutzpah to Take on Microsoft

It's offering word processing for iPad – a program specifically developed for mobile, that can also open Word documents.

Amitai Ziv
Amitai Ziv
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They are celebrating the launch of the mini-iPad. Imagine how happy they will be to learn they can now do word processing on the device.
They are celebrating the launch of the mini-iPad. Imagine how happy they will be to learn they can now do word processing on the device.Credit: Bloomberg
Amitai Ziv
Amitai Ziv

Here's Israeli chutzpah for you: a startup taking on Microsoft. Within weeks of its launch in October 2014, downloads of CloudOn's word processing app for iPad had passed those of Microsoft Word.

The company, four years old, had begun with a product to use Microsoft Office software on your tablets or iPads. However it was not comfortable to use because the software remained adapted for computers not iPad or tablets. Now the company is saying you don't need all that because it's come out with its own word processor for iPad.

What's its appeal? Unlike Word, CloudOn's app was born and developed for mobile interfaces, not desktops, the company explains. "Microsoft Word is an excellent product," says co-founder Meir Morgenstern. "But its migration to mobile isn't complete. We believe in mobile, believe that's where the true disruption is and believe that's where the giants can be beat."

CloudOn's word processing app is based on the open-source processor LibreOffice, which competes with Microsoft Office – and is also compatible with it. In other words, the app can be used to write documents; send documents; and can also to open and work on Word documents that somebody sends to you.

The company said it created a touch-based user interface, or as the company helpfully puts it: "Just tap, type, pinch and swipe."

One survey CloudOn did at about the time of its app launch found that 85% of respondents feel frustration when trying to edit text documents on mobile devices. "Mobility has changed the way we work, yet document editors have not changed for mobile use," CloudOn stated with its product launch.

Tech bloggers also seem to appreciate with the innovation. As GigaOm put it, the iPad can finally be usable a serious editing tool, not just as a consumption device.

Word processing for iPad is a competitive field, with solutions such as Apple's Pages, or Google's Docs app. These are the entities with which CloudOn is competing. Chutzpah, as we said.

The company aims to expand to more platforms, and start charging money, too – right now its product is free. Extra features, such as high-level security or format conversion – for instance to PDF, will cost extra.

Shortly CloudOn plans to launch a product for iPhone and in 2015, some time, one for android too, says Morgenstern. Right now is software can't support software written from right to left (Hebrew, Arabic) but that will come, he says.

For a startup, it's big, with 50 employees, half in Israel and half in the Mountain View, California. To date CloudOn, founded in 2010, has raised $26 million.

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