Office on the iPad and other tablets

Last week Microsoft quietly released it Office 365 iPhone app in the wild.

The Office 365 app lets users edit Word, Excel and PowerPoint documents from Apple iPhones.

It has limited functionality — users need a full Office 365 subscription. that’s NZ$165. In effect this means users need to run Office on a PC as well as on their phone to get any value from the iPhone app.

Microsoft’s app is strictly iPhone only. You can’t run it on an iPad – (update: apparently you can run it on an iPad 3 or later, either at iPhone size or scaled up) . Microsoft says this is because the software company’s free web versions of Office apps is the way to go.

Some commentators dismiss this idea. Matt Burns at TechCrunch goes further. He says: If Office hits the iPad, even fewer people would buy a Surface.

Burns has a point about a full-fledged iPad Office app hurting Surface sales. Microsoft’s nice, but expensive, tablet hasn’t been a widespread hit but it is popular with people who want or need desktop-class Office on a tablet.

I’ve used Microsoft’s Word and Excel Web Apps on my iPad for the last nine months along with SkyDrive. Word Web App is not my first choice of iPad word processor – I prefer the $1.99 iA Writer – but it has everything I need.

Likewise I use the Excel Web App on my iPad. It’s perfect for my needs. Admittedly my Office software requirements are minimal – I mainly use the tools to write news stories when I’m away from home. But I’d say Microsoft’s statement about the iPhone Office app is correct: if you want Office on an iPad the web apps are the way to go. And they have another advantage over a iTunes-store Office app, they are free.

5 thoughts on “Office on the iPad and other tablets

  1. It’s definitely interesting times. I wonder what the future holds for Microsoft. I can definitely see your point that they aren’t ever going to outdo Apple in terms of hardware, at least not immediately. I wonder how much this, as well as the PRISM story is going to hurt the proprietary software producers.

    I’m seeing some school’s trying out Linux as an OS on selected machines, along with Raspberry Pi to teach basic programming. I’m just playing around with the dual boot for ubuntu in windows 7 at the moment, and I am not a tecchie by any stretch. I wonder if the general computer using public will begin to lift their understanding of the market and consider alternative choices. Open source software like ubuntu, firefox and libre project for office docs for example could become more prevalent. They are behind the market as far as cloud sync and multiple device integration, but I think there is ubuntu for android and a cloud service. I wonder what other sort of improvements we can expect to see in that area as well.

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  2. “I wonder if the general computer using public will begin to lift their understanding of the market and consider alternative choices.”

    Open Source’s best chance at making a breakthrough was around a decade ago. Since then it has slipped back under the radar, although Android, Chrome and even OSX have open source roots.

    My guess is that the big players like Microsoft are not going to lose to freeware, but to cheapware like my $1.99 iPad editing software. And I guess the gulf between $1.99 and zero isn’t that big considering Office used to cost the thick end of NZ$1000.

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  3. Yes, iA Writer is my writing tool of choice on the iPad as well. It has the advantages of a slightly better keyboard than the awful standard iOS keyboard, and relatively easy communication with the outside world via Dropbox, Skydrive etc. Apple’s more sophisticated Pages and Numbers only communicate via the Apple cloud or a clunky iTunes connection.

    My limited spreadsheeting on the iPad is done in the QuickOffice suite, which lets me use Dropbox to connect with my Windows computers.

    For doing heavy duty ‘office’ work, particularly work needing a bit of formatting, tablet and phone apps are a poor substitute for the real thing on a real computer with a real mouse. My philosophy is, where I have to do some basic composition or editing away from my office, hack it out on a basic tablet app and refine it later on a better computer. This is even more valid for a phone, where full-blown office apps seem faintly ridiculous.

    I certainly don’t see myself forking out to use Microsoft’s Office 365 – even if it comes to the iPad. Paying $165 a year for that service would (might, really) only make sense if I had an MS Surface computer with a real keyboard. (And why, oh why, did I let myself get suckered in by Apple hype and waste my money on Pages and Numbers?)

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    • I paid for Office 365 mainly because some of my writing clients require Word.

      For a while I used a different word processor, but was caught out when the client wanted me to use the horrible change tracking feature for a particularly difficult document a group of people was working on. I had to drive around to a late night shopping mall and buy a physical copy of Office – which shows how long ago that was.

      Looking back, the track changes thing has only cropped up two or three times in 25 years. .

      And yes, composing anything more than a comment or a quick mail reply is tricky on a phone. If I’m writing on my iPad, I use a wireless keyboard.

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  4. Yes, I can definitely see cheapware becoming more of a preferred option ha. I’m going to push on with the freeware experiment as a parallel alternative for now. I have a work issued iphone and ipad and a pc laptop. We also use the Google ecosystem, along with Dropbox, Evernote etc to fit in with clients needs. The lack of clean integration between Microsoft docs and Google Drive is a pain at the moment for us. Once this contract ends and I have to return all the toys, it’s going to be interesting the decision I will have to make in devices and platforms. Thanks for another great post Bill.

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