Office for iPad: One of Microsoft's finest moments

Office for iPad: One of Microsoft's finest moments

Summary: The launch of Office for iPad has been a big topic recently, and rightly so. Microsoft has proven me wrong with its approach to its office suite for Apple's tablet.

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Thanks to Adrian Kingsley-Hughes for the cool wallpaper (Image: James Kendrick/ZDNet)

"The window of opportunity for Microsoft making a big push with Office for iPad has closed. The millions of iPad owners have gotten along just fine without Office and they've moved on."

That's a sentiment that some have been expressing for a while, but this quote is mine. I made this comment just a few months ago, and Microsoft is already proving me wrong. I'm the first to admit when I'm wrong with my analysis, and that I'm doing so now is due to Office for iPad, and how Microsoft got it exactly right.

My earlier panning of Office for iPad was based on the belief that Microsoft would never create iPad versions of Word, Excel, and Powerpoint that would offer just the right features for the tablet. My thoughts were that Office for iPad would either be failed full ports of the mammoth suite, something inappropriate for the iPad, or would be so stripped down that they'd offer little value to iPad owners.

I'm the first to admit when I'm wrong with my analysis, and that I'm doing so now is due to Office for iPad, and how Microsoft got it exactly right.

After playing around with the Office apps on the iPad, I concede that I was wrong. Microsoft has totally built the iPad versions of the apps to offer just the right features to make them a worthy addition to iPad owners' tool box. They don't seem bloated, yet they will handle most everything iPad owners are likely to need. All three Office apps have the right mix of features and usability that is appropriate for tablets.

The freemium model that Microsoft has chosen is the right approach to generate the large downloads that we're already seeing. While I'd prefer some light editing to be included in the free offering, the Apple royalty charge (30 percent) probably was a factor in Microsoft's decision to require an Office 365 subscription to unlock editing. After careful thought I'm OK with that.

It remains to be seen how many subscriptions Microsoft will sell due to the Office for iPad apps. How many iPad owners who have downloaded the free apps, and there have been a lot downloads, continue to use them over time will be what determines the impact to Microsoft's bottom line.

CNET Video: Microsoft Office for iPad in action

Many of those iPad owners will probably use them heavily, and that's due to the fine job Microsoft has done with Office for iPad. All three apps have just the right mix of features and a very good interface adapted for the iPad. It is Office done right for the iPad. Kudos to the folks in Redmond for understanding that it needed to rebuild Office for the device, and then having the guts to do it.

This writer believes the release of Office for iPad is one of Microsoft's finest moments. It is a clear indication that the company is serious about its "devices and services" vision. It makes sense to release the new tablet version of Office first on the biggest platform and not its own. The way forward is now clear.

Don't miss ZDNet's outstanding coverage of Office for iPad:

Topics: Mobility, Apps, iPad, Microsoft

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40 comments
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  • Think the subscription model will be an issue...

    .....for most home users.

    Looking at the review's it looks that way.

    Being able to log in and find a document that you can email may be enough, I guess.
    _NonZealot
    • Is that truly you, NonZealot? In a way, I hope so. It's been too long.

      BTW, for it's intended use that will be more than enough for this first iteration of Office for iPad. After all, one has to use a combination of apps just to print anything from these apps. Something that MS has pledged to fix in upcomming updates. And knowing MS, that could be quite sometime. I predict that printing capability for Office for iPad will not become available until several months after Office for Touch has been released for Windows 8 users. Just a guess.
      kenosha77a
    • yes i agree

      i rather pay one off for software

      Anyway I've been able to use MS Office on my ipad by using remote desktop and a solution ThinServer from Aikotech
      ThinkFairer8
  • Too Little, Too Late, Too Expensive

    While not bad, there are now other apps that offer a wide array of functionality making the need for Office questionable at best. Add the cost of a subscription into this and it led me to look, test, and dump. If I really need Office (and that has steadily decreased) I have 2010 on my Surface Pro.
    rhonin
    • This is an enterprise play...

      I think this is more of an enterprise play. More and more employees are bringing their tablets to work and Microsoft can't afford to lose the enterprise to a competitor... and so Office for iPad is a way of c*ck-blocking the competition. The enterprise is conservative and likes predictability. They'd prefer to stay with Microsoft Office because it's easier for them... and now they can.

      So even while I feel a little dissed that Microsoft released a touch-based version of Office for the competition before they did for my Surface... I see the reasoning behind it... and it's pretty smart.
      cybersaurusrex
      • BYOD has limits

        We require employees to provide their own mobile phones as it is less hassle for us to manage and staff can buy the hardware they want. We subsidize the plans to cover company use. However, we would never permit employees to use their own tablets or PC for company use as: a) we can't control the use of illegal software, and b) work product needs to be saved on our networked server (also never in the cloud).
        rpasea
        • Big Phones

          A tablet is just a bit phone, not sure why your company would make a distinction between the two.
          Rann Xeroxx
        • Hence the reason Microsoft also released Enterprise Mobility Suite

          The idea is that with EMS, the employer can provide a controlled cloud, and place limits so that Office for iPad files aren't saved outside of that environment.
          KPOM1
          • Enterprise Mobility Suite

            Yes, MDM platforms are supposed to bridge the gap. Using AirWatch here and if I really wanted to take more advantage of my current BYOD situation, I can deploy apps from the MDM securely. Giving those devices unfettered access on my corp LAN, a whole other issue. We only allow them on guest Wi-Fi with access to existing web based apps.

            The ultimate goal is for us, and should be for anyone considering BYOD, is to offer your apps up as secure web apps.
            djmik
    • yeah, they should have released this years ago

      I dont care what they say, MS is a software company. They should have supported alternative platforms long ago--both for Office and Development tools.

      Too bad Ballmer and his team wasted time trying to copy others and be something that they are not.
      otaddy
      • yeah, they should have released this years ago

        They have been better if the judge broke them up years ago, but MS fought that Internet Explorer was a key technology embedded in their OS. All false hoods, but it let MS believe that they can control OS and desktop software - i.e. monopoly and staggered improvements. Thanks to open source and all the developers and communities that make our life better and increase competition, quality, and inventiveness.
        magicy2k
  • Already beat, and for free.

    Or, you know, they've already been beaten to the punch by HopTo which is 100% totally free with no subscription required, has a great interface, and is based entirely on Office 2010. The ONLY reason I could see anyone to get Microsoft's offering is if they already have a 365 subscription. Most people outside the professional sector do not.
    sean_themighty
    • Don't see that

      on the App store.
      DontUseMicrosoftAtAll
  • Office First on the Mac

    We all do remember, of course, that much of the modern Office idiom was first done for the Mac. When we were developing for Windows 1 and 2 we asked our Microsoft handlers how the look and feel ought to go with a single parent window and multiple child windows on the X86 PC's. They sent a pre-release of the version of Excel built for the Mac and said "like this".

    Maybe Microsoft is playing to their strengths in OS's, Office, and development environments. And forgetting the fanboi war.
    TomMariner
    • I think you're right...

      Microsoft was losing the mobile war... so they've decided to piggyback on the success of their competitors... and it's very smart. It's how Microsoft got to where they are today, actually.

      An agnostic Microsoft, is a successful Microsoft.

      With that said... I hope they release a touch-based Office for my Surface soon... and I hope it's NOT a subscription... because most consumers don't like "software as a service." That's an enterprise thing.
      cybersaurusrex
      • I think that's how they'll

        keep the office advantage on windows tablets. The consumer version will likely be free and not require a subscription, for work purposes the license will probably require something more, just like it does now.
        Sam Wagner
  • James Kendrick's analysis is ok, but.....

    , it's missing a very important item worth mentioning - Microsoft's Surface and Windows Phone products.

    The Surface and Windows Phone platforms have failed miserably, despite the heavy all the money Microsoft poured into advertising, both in commercials and paid product placements. Office for the iPad, iPhone, and Android strengthens those platforms and weakens any form of enticement to buy a Microsoft devices.

    Remember when Bill Gates said this: "With Windows 8, Microsoft is trying to gain share in what has been dominated by the iPad-type device," he said. "But a lot of those users are frustrated. They can't type, they can't create documents, they don't have Office there. So we're providing them something with the benefits they've seen that have made that a big category, but without giving up what they expect in a PC."

    Now those iPad and Android users are no longer frustrated.
    VictorWho
    • Actually...

      You would be correct by saying the first Surfaces were less than successful (not a $1B loss as some have reported as a write down is unrealized profits, not a loss). The second iteration of the Surface has been selling well and will make MS some millions. That's actually rather good for a brand new PC OEM as others in the segments have been losing money. And its not just learning how to build devices but building up distribution channels, setting up store fronts, building a reputation, etc.

      Too soon to say if Surface will success or not. Most new Surface owners seem to love their devices.
      Rann Xeroxx
      • No

        The write down was a credit to an asset account and a debit to an expense account. It was very definitely a loss event. Or, another way to put it, the full value of the Surface 1 had been allocated to profits in anticipation of future sales in prior quarters, true, but because it had been counted as profit, the write down had to be counted as a loss. It was a material reduction to the profits reported that quarter.
        DannyO_0x98
  • Click Bait Thats what they should rename you

    You are the same one who was bashing it this week, now you are all over it. Microsoft should have some special option to never make you have access to it all.
    adacosta38