Office for iPad: One of Microsoft's finest moments

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.
Written by James Kendrick, Contributor
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:

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