Most of the people I know, and I suspect, most people that own an iPad, knew it was a ‘when’ Office for iPad was going to get released, rather than if. After new CEO Satya Nadella announced Office for iPad (or rather, Word, Excel, and PowerPoint) earlier today, along with Azure Active Directory, I had a couple of thoughts, which I’m going to share here.
Firstly, perhaps most importantly, is a view I think many share. This release comes far too late. Now, granted, the new flatter look of iOS 7 compliments the UI of Office 2013, open which Office for iPad is clearly based, but it’s still too late. Particularly now Apple give iWork away with any iOS device purchased since September last year. Microsoft should have released this a year ago, at least; the reason for the delay could be anything, and what’s done is done. Business users will likely get onboard with this release quite quickly, but I’d be willing to bet it’s only going to be those that are almost fully invested in a Microsoft environment.
Office for iPad uses a ‘freemium’ business model (I hate that word…), in that it’s free for all users to download, and they can view documents just as they would on the PC/Mac versions of Office. To edit, however, you need a subscription to Office 365. Currently, until Microsoft release the Personal Plan, the cheapest option is £80 per year, or £8 per month (it’s actually £79.99 and £7.99 respectively, but let’s not fall for that), or $100 yearly / $10 pcm in the US. This isn’t an extortionate amount, but I know that for some people, that’s going to price it out of their reach, when it could come in quite handy for them.
Taking my fiancée as an example (or if you’re reading this 9 days after it’s been posted, my wife); her job required quite a bit of travelling between locations, as well as a fair amount of work preparing documents, so she used Pages on her iPad. It was perfect, save for the having to convert to Word documents to send to people, and convert back when opening email attachments. Pages handles it fine, but it’d be nice to avoid that step and use something familiar throughout the document’s lifecycle (e.g. Office for iPad).
Now, I’m by no means a business expert, but surely not including an in-app purchase to enable editing of documents was short-sighted, and a big mistake? Sure, if they take the approach of free app updates when the next version of Office is out, then some users get a really, really cheap deal from an in-app purchase, but if a new app is released, where Office 365 users get the editing functionality by signing in, and another in-app upgrade is available for those without 365, then Microsoft get the best of both worlds? I genuinely cannot understand the decision to not take that approach, it certainly rules the use of it out for me.
The final thing that I think was missing, is an updated version of Office for Mac. It’s been 3 years since a new version was released, and it’d be nice to bring the whole UI in line with the new iPad apps and Office 2013 for Windows. It’s a much needed update that I hope is one of the things Satya Nadella said we’d be hearing about in the ‘next few weeks’.
Aside from the things noted above, I can’t fault the app’s Microsoft have developed here, without checking out the editing side of things, they look incredible, anybody who’s used a modern (i.e. Ribbon UI) version of Office will feel right at home… I just can’t shake the feeling that this won’t quite be the launch people thought it would be.