Microsoft Breaks Tradition with Office for the iPad

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MS Office iPad
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In his first keynote as Microsoft’s CEO Satya Nadella clearly articulated that Microsoft is on path to ensure that its Services that “empower people to be more productive, and do more across all devices” was not just lip service. He announced that, effective immediately, Microsoft’s most popular productivity software, Office would be available for the iPad. These touch first applications, Word, Excel and PowerPoint, were built from the ground up retaining UX elements that office users are used and still being faithful to the iOS interface. Though the apps are free to download and provides viewing and presenting capabilities, an Office365 subscription is needed to be able to create and edit office content. You can add your Office 365 subscription in the following ways:

  • Login with your existing Office 365 subscription.
  • Complete the in-app purchase of Office 365 Home premium for $99 / year. Interestingly, this in-app purchase will be subject to Apple’s 30% app tax. Currently the cheapest Office 365 plan, Home premium allows you to install Office 365 on 5 PC’s/Macs and 5 Tablets.
  • Microsoft will soon be offering a single user plan for Office 365, $7/mo or $70/yr.
  • You can create and edit Office documents for free with the Office Online Apps. All you need is to sign up for a free Microsoft account.

Office for iPad strengths Microsoft’s position in the enterprise productivity space by ensuring that the BYOD (bring your own devices) movement is fully supported. So to expect Microsoft to offer this enterprise class software for free, however disruptive it maybe is not good business sense. As it stands Office 365 is Microsoft’s fastest growing product ever. Their Business division has been making more money than the Windows division for the last 5 years.

However, I expect that before the end of the year, the limited functionality, (enough for the casual user) that is in the Office Online apps will cascade down to the native Office apps on iOS and the soon to be announced Android version. Microsoft has already taken this step by announcing that Office Mobile apps for iPhone and Android Smartphones will be free (previously they too needed an Office 365 subscription).Microsoft CloudIn the past, Microsoft has protected its suite of products by ensuring that Windows always had the priority. Hence the release of Office for iPad, (especially since it was released before the fully touch version for Windows, codenamed Office Gemini) may seem counterintuitive. Satya Nadella stressed that in a “Cloud First, Mobile First World”, users need access to their content across a whole range of devices. Windows 8 tablet users should not be disappointed as I fully expect that we will Microsoft will unveil Office Gemini next week at their Build Conference.

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