Microsoft Office For iPad Available For Free, Sort Of
Microsoft Word for iPad
Microsoft’s Office applications have been available for the iPhone for some time but due to the devices small screen, it had very limited appeal to all those people with Apple’s iPad tablets. After much waiting, the company has finally and they are free to download. The software has been greatly improved to take advantage of the extra screen space that makes it feel much more like a full version of the software rather than the a stripped down mobile version. This is great but there are a number of caveats with regards to using the new software.
Free But Requires Subscription
Microsoft Excell for iPad
There are four applications that make up the Microsoft Office for iPad suite. Microsoft OneNote was released previously and is completely fee to use. Want to view your notes or create new ones, no problem. The latest applications, Word, Excel and Powerpoint work differently. You can download the applications for free but when you load them for the first time, it is going to prompt you for your Office 365 subscription or ask if you want to view documents. This is because to fully use the three new programs, you must have the Office 365 subscription that I talked about a couple of days ago. So the applications really aren’t free, more like trialware. For instance, you can sign up for a 30-day trial of the Office 365 service to use all their programs but once again, you will eventually have to pay to continue using them.
This is going to be an obstacle for Microsoft in terms of gaining acceptance with mobile users. For those that already have the Office 365 subscription it works out extremely well. The problem is that Microsoft’s primary competition, Apple’s iWorks, is completely free to anyone that buys a new iPad or Macintosh computer. In addition to this, there are a number of relatively low cost office alternatives that are available for the iPad and other mobile devices. Sure, they are not the official Microsoft applications, but they are useful enough to deal with basic tasks when you absolutely need it without having to pay subscription fees.
Limited Cloud Support
Microsoft PowerPoint for iPad
Like to store your files online through one of the cloud services such as DropBox, Google Drive or Apple’s iCloud? You are going to be out of luck with the Office applications for the iPad. This is because the Office applications only work with the Microsoft’s OneDrive (formerly SkyDrive). This seems like an obvious step for Microsoft as you already have to purchase the Office 365 subscription to really use the applications so only using the Microsoft cloud storage system just keeps the users tied to their service and the potential for more revenue. The problem is that the alternatives such as Apple’s iWork suite can work with more than just Apple’s iCloud. Many of the other third party document editing programs also have the ability to be used with multiple cloud services.
Regardless of the pitfalls of the Office for iPad applications, this is certainly going to be extremely successful for the company. There are so many instances where business people are going to need to use the official Microsoft programs. For instance, my wife tried to use the Pages programs when writing her last book, but even with the Word compatibility, her publisher essentially could not use the files because the conversions between Pages and Word caused enough quirks that it couldn’t be moved into publishing without lots of extra work. The result is that she had to purchase Word for her Mac. This means that many business users will buy the subscriptions and applications to use. It is on the consumer side that Microsoft is going to struggle as consumers are much less likely to pay the recurring subscription costs in favor or free or low cost alternatives.