Microsoft makes OneNote free on the iPhone. Is iPad next?

Microsoft released a version of its OneNote note-taking application for the Apple iPhone on January 18. Starting today, Microsoft is making OneNote available as a free download from the iTunes store.
Written by Mary Jo Foley, Senior Contributing Editor

Microsoft released a version of its OneNote note-taking application for the Apple iPhone on January 18.

Starting today, in response to user requests, Microsoft is making OneNote Mobile for the iPhone available as a free download from the iTunes store, said Jason Bunge, Senior Director of Office Product Management. (I'm sure more than a few of the requests came from Microsoft employees with iPhones... but I digress.) The product will be free for a limited time period, the end date of which Microsoft is not specifying today.

Gallery: Microsoft's OneNote takes on the iPhone

Update: The OneNote application is available in the U.S. iTunes story only for now. Microsoft officials declined to say when support in other markets will be added.

The native iOS version of OneNote Mobile is the culmination of 18 to 24 months of development work by a team consisting of both Microsoft Mac Office and OneNote engineers, Bunge said.

OneNote Mobile for iPhone lets users take notes, capture and embed photos from their iPhone cameras and sync these automatically to their SkyDrive accounts, allowing them to access/share the notes across their Windows PCs, Windows Phone 7 devices and iPhones. Supported browsers for OneNote on iPhone include Safari, Internet Explorer, Firefox and Chrome. There is no "out-of-the-box" Live Mesh or DropBox support for OneNote for the iPhone.

Microsoft has delivered very few iPhone apps to date. Others include Bing, Windows Live Messenger and the Microsoft Tag Reader. The Softies have not made available any iPad-specific apps -- though iPad users can run iPhone apps on their devices, if they don't mind the pixelated look (or if they've done an iPad jailbreak).

Before today, iPhone users could view, but not edit, OneNote notes on their phones using Microsoft's OneNote Web App. But the iPhone version enables a "full editing experience" on the iPhone, Bunge said.

Microsoft's decision to make a native iPhone version of OneNote leads to lots of questions -- so far without official answers. Will Microsoft release iPhone versions of Word, Excel and PowerPoint, too -- and if so, when? Bunge said no comment. Will Microsoft do an iPad-customized version of OneNote or any of the other Office suite applications? Another no comment.

(Actually, the official response is "In terms of other Office applications, there’s nothing further to announce today, but Office will continue to evolve and integrate productivity experiences in new ways and on new devices.")

"While OneNote is a good start, I want to see Microsoft go further," said Forrester analyst J.P. Gownder. "I think Microsoft *should* create an iPad version of OneNote. Actually, let me be really specific: Microsoft is a software company. The company should offer software products across platforms to maximize its addressable market. The entire Microsoft Office suit should be made available on the iPad. Otherwise, Numbers, Pages, etc. for iPad will only continue to grow.

"Offering OneNote on iOS makes a lot of sense, particularly given that consumers will otherwise turn to iOS apps like Evernote or MobileNoter (or one of a long tail of other apps that potentially compete in this product space)," Gownder added. "OneNote makes sense, too, because it complements the on-the-go nature of mobile devices, and can integrate with GPS, photo tagging, etc., making for a potentially rich note-taking experience."

As an iPad user, I'd be keen on seeing Microsoft bring Word, Excel and PowerPoint to the iPad. But not everyone feels the same. There are some Softies and developers who believe Microsoft should use Office and other Microsoft applications as carrots to entice users to stay with Microsoft products. There are others who believe Microsoft needs to be realistic and put its apps wherever the users are.

Which side of the fence are you on? Any interest from readers out there in OneNote for iPhone?

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