Why I can live without Office for iPad

Why I can live without Office for iPad

Summary: I've owned an iPad for almost four years, and during that time have developed a workflow for handling Office documents when I'm on the move. Office for iPad comes several years too late for me.

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TOPICS: Mobility, iPad, Microsoft
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Excel on the iPad
(Source: Microsoft)

Last week Microsoft made the headlines by finally acknowledging that iOS is a credible content creation platform and releasing a version of Office that's compatible with the iPad. There's no doubt that this is a monumental time for mobile computing, and it's no coincidence that in the run up to this release the Redmond giant's share price broke $40 a share for the first since July 2000.

I've taken a look at Office for iPad and there's no doubt that it's an impressive piece of software.  At a time when Microsoft is hell-bent on going against what its customers want – think Windows 8, or the abolition of the TechNet program – it's comforting to see that Microsoft can deliver a product that people want. I agree with out Mr. Kendrick that it represents one of Microsoft's finest moments.

But I won't be using Office for iPad, and this decision has nothing to do with the BYOD licensing minefield, the cost (shop around if you want the Home Premium version, you can pick up an Office 365 subscription gift card on Amazon.com for under $70, saving you $30), or the fact that I can't print from the app.

The reason – actually, as you will see, there are several reasons – I'm giving Office for iPad a wide berth is, quite simply, because I can.

See, I've owned an iPad for almost four years, and back then being able to work with Office documents was a priority for me. Back in April 2010 I couldn't wait four years for Microsoft to get its act together and come out with Office for iPad so I had to find alternatives.

And pretty soon there were a raft of apps that could handle Word, Excel and PowerPoint documents. Sure, they didn't support ever feature that Word, Excel or PowerPoint on the desktop could spit out, but I'm and 80/20 sort of guy, and I use about 20 percent of what these applications have to offer a good 80 percent of the time. Most of the time apps such as Quickoffice (free), Docs to Go, or Office² Plus (free) work just fine for me, and on the rare occasion when these don't work – and to be honest with you I can't remember the last time I had to do this – I can fire up one of my remote PCs back at the PC Doc HQ using Parallels Access or LogMeIn and work on the document remotely.  

Then there's Evernote, which has truly revolutionized the way I work across my devices.

In other words, Microsoft's reluctance to embrace iOS early on meant I had to develop a workflow that within this vacuum. I'm now reluctant to pay Microsoft a yearly subscription to modify a workflow that is tried and battlefield tested.

And anyway, if all I want to do is review documents, I can do this using Office for iPad for free. But even as freebie viewer apps, I'm reluctant to give up 250 megabytes of iPad space per app when I have alternatives that work fine.

Another factor is that I'm moving – slowly – away from Microsoft, and I'm not the only one. "Do you have Microsoft Office?" used to be a common question from people wanting to collaborate and send me documents, but over the years that has changed to "Do you have OpenOffice?" and then to "Do you have Google Docs?"

Then there's fragmentation. The more I drift away from the Windows ecosystem, the more I notice how much of a bad job Microsoft does of supporting other platforms. Office on the Windows desktop is a very different animal to Office for Mac and Office for iPad.  This means that even if I'm sticking with Microsoft my workflow has to vary between different platforms. I'd pay for a greater level of unification, but I find it hard to stomach paying for a fragmented workflow when I can get that cheaper – or for free – elsewhere.

Another factor is my reluctance to buy into yet another subscription plan. When it comes to Adobe's Creative Cloud there really is no alternative as the competition is a decade behind – and don't tell me that GIMP or Paint.NET or whatever is a substitute for Photoshop – but there are countless free and low-cost alternatives to Office, especially at my level (remember, I'm and 80/20 guy these days, and I no longer develop macros, templates and such for the platform).

Don't get me wrong, Office for iPad is a great app, but for me it comes years too late. If this had been on the scene two or three years ago then I probably would have been the first in line to jump into the apps, but time has moved on and I'm comfortable with my existing workflow for now. 

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Topics: Mobility, iPad, Microsoft

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60 comments
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  • It's never too late.

    Pointless excuses...
    Owl:Net
    • They aren't excuses

      Nobody is obligated to purchase anything. This is one writer's explanation of why one specific purchase will not be made. There's nothing in the article that suggests you need to feel the same way... I know I don't. Microsoft Office is still very valuable to me.
      Mac_PC_FenceSitter
    • It's More Than A Day Late And Quite A Few Dollars Short!

      As long as that adrogynous CEO in Cupertino keeps the iPad crippled in order to protect their boring Mac business, any serious apps on the iPad are ridiculous.

      Anyways, how can MS release an app with NO print function.

      Honestly, MS could screw up a perfect day in Heaven.

      Go Microsoft!
      orandy
      • Print functionality on the iPad

        Is rather bad to begin with, to be honest.
        Michael Alan Goff
        • Other vendors haven't had a problem implementing AirPrint

          and I fully expect to see Microsoft do it in future.

          Microsoft has probably taken the "minimum viable product" strategy with the launch, and will add things like printing later.
          Mac_PC_FenceSitter
          • It will come

            I was simply pointing out that the iPad had a very limited print ability to begin with.
            Michael Alan Goff
      • Honestly, orandy could screw up a perfect day in Heaven.

        His posts are how, to put it nicely...

        "Always Days Late And Quite A Few Dollars Short"

        He really has to be a caricature of himself, as the alternative would have to be pretty insulting...
        William.Farrel
    • why I can live without an iPad

      Forget about Office for iPad, don't even need an iPad.
      warboat
  • Jeeez

    then don't use it. I don't care why and neither does anyone else. Its been pretty much acknowledged that all three apps are as good as any out there, maybe better, but if you choose to stick with all those who tried to copy office then I guess that's your decision. I guess you're showing MS. In the meantime I read all three apps are the most downloaded on the app store in the first 10 hours after being released. Sounds like most don't agree with your opinion.
    compsrt
    • "I read all three apps are the most downloaded on the app store"

      Fair point, and probably true.

      However, given that nobody buys anything on Microsoft's app store. Ever. That still may only be a couple of hundred copies?

      Just saying ...
      5hagg1
      • Pointless insult

        This has nothing to do with Microsoft's app store any way. People get apps for their iPad from the iOS app store. :|

        And that's the list it's top on.
        Michael Alan Goff
        • Yeah, he kind of didn't think that one through

          Just saying ...
          William.Farrel
      • I guess you mised the part where you can only get iOS (Apple) apps

        from the App store (Apple).

        What, you honestly thought that iOS apps could be downloaded from Microsoft's app store?
        William.Farrel
        • Since loosing that lawsuit over the "App Store" name, people get confused.

          You see, Will, you just pointed out an example where a poor, innocent, humble and educationally challenged poor soul has become hopelessly confused about mobile application download procedures ever since Apple lost that lawsuit. Oh the humanity.
          kenosha77a
          • I do hope that was sarcasm

            As this line said it all "given that nobody buys anything on Microsoft's app store. Ever".

            Well, nobody from the iOS standpoint, sure. :)
            William.Farrel
      • Really

        I did mean the APPLE app store. I suppose you can't assume anything with this bunch.
        compsrt
  • Apple fan-boy

    Based on the words used, you would not have liked this at any point,or are you bitter.
    For many business people on the road, office 365 is a good option. Being able to use it on tablets is a bonus. I have installed the product and will have occasional use of it.

    Have someone proofread before you post, too many grammar errors
    KellyHarris
  • Well said, Mr. Kingsley-Hughes

    Microsoft everywhere, to paraphrase Mr. Balmer, may turn into Microsoft no where, at least outside business uses.
    dheady@...
  • Why are Tech Journalists So Disconnected from Business?

    Because the journalistic cognoscenti live in the tech world and deal solely with like-minded tech buffs, there is no "purpose" for Office for iPad. They can live forever in the comfort of Google Docs, iWork, LibreOffice, Open Office, and a plethora of less costly/free alternatives.

    They should have to live just one week in the real business world, where ONE screw-up in formatting back and forth between Word and any Word-wannabe can be a disaster, not just an inconvenience. Grow up folks - Office an even more pervasive standard than Windows itself, and this is a great development for those of us who live in that environment.
    dksmidtx
    • Nobody should say they don't need MS Office until

      They have grown proficient in constructing macros to fix up Word salad, Excel cell formatting mess, which have resulted from compatible office suite being not quite compatible enough.
      warboat