FiftyThree, the team behind blockbuster iPad app Paper, has secured $15 million in funding to create the ‘Office suite of the future’. It has also secured a high-profile team of hardware designers from influential companies, including Microsoft, to do it.
iOS already has Microsoft Office, the definitive office software suite of all time. But it seems that Georg Petschnigg, founder of FiftyThree and former employee at Microsoft, doesn’t think Office cuts the cake.
“Our goal is to build essentially a suite of mobile tools for creativity,” said Petschnigg. “It’s about imagining the right solution, and that takes time.”
Perhaps Petschnigg has a point – a full port of desktop software may not fulfill all the needs of tablet users. The meshing of desktop and mobile software has suffered poor success in the past, as evidenced by Windows 8 devices. People either want to use desktop software, or mobile applications. In-betweens are disliked.
But $15 million might be a bit risky, considering how well established Microsoft Office already is, and there is no guarantee that any product of FiftyThree can compete. There are, however, two factors going for them:
1. Their history of success. FiftyThree’s Paper, for instance, has already achieved eight million downloads, and 1.5m of them were in the first two weeks. In-app costs for extensions such as brushes make this a lucrative venture indeed, and Paper happens to be the iTunes store’s highest-grossing application of all time.
2. FiftyThree has garnered a pretty incredible team. Petschnigg is himself a Microsoft veteran, and has gained two other influential workers from the company: John Ikeda, designer of all Xbox 360 accessories, including the controller and Kinect, and Audrey Louchart, designer of Microsoft’s award winning arc-mouse.
The team has also acquired Jim Koo, ex-director of mechanical engineering at Sonos.
FiftyThree’s specific plans are a mystery, but with a team like that, it’s worth watching what they end up doing – even if it does sound crazy.