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.