No surprise: iPad Pro users have to pay for Microsoft Office

Want to use Microsoft Office on Apple's upcoming iPad Pro tablet? You can, but unlike on other iPads, you'll have to pay for it and that shouldn't surprise you.
Written by Kevin Tofel, Contributor

Earlier this week, clarification about Microsoft Office pricing for the iPad Pro made the rounds thanks to ArsTechnica. The main point is that unlike the current iPads, which can use Office freely for creating and editing documents, iPad Pro users will need a paying Office 365 subscription.

So what gives?

It's all about the screen size and Microsoft hasn't changed its stance from before. In other words, this shouldn't be surprising.

Regardless of the underlying mobile platform -- yes, this applies to both Apple's iOS and Google Android -- Microsoft defines a mobile device as hardware with a screen of 10.1-inches or less.

That's why last November, Microsoft was able to set Office free on iOS devices, including both iPads and iPhones. With a screen size of 9.7-inches, the current iPad models meet the mobile device standard that Microsoft has defined. The 12.9-inch display of Apple's iPad Pro clearly doesn't.

Microsoft even reiterated this requirement in April of this year for devices running Windows. The company stated that the Office Universal app suite would be freely bundled on all Windows devices with -- wait for it -- screen sizes less than 10.1-inches.

Some iOS owners interested in running Office on an iPad Pro may cry foul but that's because they assumed when Microsoft made Office free for iPads (and iPhones) the same approach would apply in the future.

Technically, it still does. You can buy a new iPad Air or iPad mini today, tomorrow or next year and -- unless Microsoft revamps its licensing approach -- you can use Office for document editing and creation at no cost. As long as the iPad you're using meets the 10.1-inch or less screen size requirement, you're good.

Buy an iPad Pro, however, and your device isn't considered "mobile" by Microsoft's Office licensing rules.

You'll need an Office 365 subscription, which isn't a bad deal considering you can use Office Personal on up to five PCs or Macs -- the iPad Pro counts as one of the five -- for $99.99 a year or $9.99 a month; that price also includes 1 TB of OneDrive storage.

Don't want to use Office on multiple devices but do on an iPad Pro? Consider the $69.99 yearly (or $6.99 monthly) plan.

Companies with an Office 365 Business subscription and rights to use Office have you covered too on the iPad Pro.

My colleague Mary Jo Foley tells me that the following subscription plans include access to the Office mobile apps: Office 365 Business Premium, Office 365 Business, Office 365 ProPlus, Office 365 Enterprise E3, and Office 365 Enterprise E4. Existing subscribers to Office 365 Small Business Premium and Office 365 Midsize Business are eligible too but these plans are no longer offered for sale.

Whether Microsoft was planning for Apple to make a large tablet or not, we'll likely never know. Regardless, the company makes money from its productivity suite on devices that make you more productive and most of them have large screens.

See also:

Editorial standards