IT Directors: Keep an eye on those iPads with Office

Microsoft unleashed Office for iPad, and owners of Apple's tablet have been installing it in great numbers. But if they bring them to work, make sure they're not used for company business.
Written by James Kendrick, Contributor

Office for iPad is a great solution for those wanting to do real work on the tablet. Microsoft has done a great job making Word, Excel, and Powerpoint for the iPad. That's a good thing, but IT directors better think long and hard about the implications.

Excel iPad
Image: Microsoft

The Office apps are being downloaded in great numbers by iPad owners. They're free, so why not? Some of those downloaders, perhaps a lot of them, are buying that $99.99 Office 365 subscription to fully unlock the editing features of the apps. Perhaps they want to allow their kids to use the apps to do homework, or maybe they want to do home projects. That's well and good, but if they bring their iPads to work in a bring-your-own-device (BYOD) program, better make sure it's not used for work.

CNET Video: Microsoft Office for iPad in action

The subscription that's being pitched with Office for iPad to unlock all the features is the Office 365 Home Premium subscription for $99.99. That's a reasonably priced option to use Microsoft Office, including the iPad apps. What corporate managers should remember is the subscription that workers may be paying for with the iPad apps prohibits commercial use. Microsoft's warning is quite clear about such use.

"Not for use in any commercial, nonprofit, or revenue-generating activities, or by any government organization."

This is not new, it's been that way since Microsoft first launched this subscription plan. What's new is availability of Office on the iPad. Those iPads you see carried down the halls or sitting in cubicles probably now have apps that require a proper business license to use at work. This is particularly pertinent to those iPads coming to the office as part of a BYOD program. 

See also: Office for iPad: One of Microsoft's finest moments | What CIOs need to know about Office 365 Home Premium

Some IT directors may have anticipated this and, if so, good for you. You've likely got your Office licenses in a row and informed your workers to activate Word, Excel, and Powerpoint on the iPad with one of those license plans. If not, that's what you'd better do, and soon. Otherwise your workers will be using Office for company business, perhaps while using a non-commercial license. 

If you're non-compliant, it's unlikely jackbooted Compliance Police will kick down cubicle walls to catch you. You probably would never be caught.

But "not getting caught" is not a foundation for a responsible compliance plan. Consider this a friendly reminder that if you haven't gotten the Office license situaton under control, you'd better do so soon. Odds are you're going to have a few iPads with Office at work, and that requires certain licenses the tablet owners almost certainly don't have.

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

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