Talking tech since 2003

Last week saw the launch of Office for iPad, a suite of long-awaited productivity apps that offer faithful recreations of the more robust versions of Word, Excel, and Powerpoint on Apple’s tablet. All three apps are free to download, and give users the power to read and access files, but to edit or create files, a user would have to shell out money for a yearly Office 365 subscription. While data on that particular detail has yet to be divulged, it seems as though plenty of people have downloaded the apps, with Office for iPad having hit 12 million downloads since its release a mere seven days ago.

The news came via Office’s official Twitter account, which provided the delightful image above. Really, I couldn’t have done it better myself.


Of course, 12 million downloads is monumental. But how many of those users knew they needed a subscription to actually really get any use out of the apps? And how many then followed through with those subscriptions? I have to imagine that the follow-through on people buying subscriptions after downloading has to be far, far lower.

Then there are folks who have access to Office 365 accounts through their businesses or organizations—the students at the school I started teaching at this week all have subscriptions provided with their enrollment. They, too, have surely been counted in the 12 million downloads, so clearly the new subscriber information I was hoping for is probably a little tough to corral.

And then another question: how has Office for iPad been holding up after a week of use? So far, my experience has been somewhat mixed. On the positive hand, Word for iPad has remained really solid substitute for the desktop version. Yesterday my Windows 8 tablet’s battery was almost dead, so I switched to my iPad and picked up right where I’d left off. It didn’t miss a trick, and later that night, I even went to the iPad first to start writing out notes for the next day’s lecture.

On the negative hand, the iPad’s file management system—and Word’s refusal to integrate with other cloud storage apps—is horrible. To complete a homework assignment, I asked my students to upload a file from their iPads via the browser-based online campus portal. Doing so proved impossible because the iPad doesn’t want to play nice with files other than photos. And navigating through OneDrive was a chore as well. In the end, we had to email the file to a desktop computer and get the job done that way.

Is that a fault with Word? An inherent flaw in trying to use an iPad for productivity? And, certainly, there’s plenty of blame to put on the online portal used by the school. I’ll be curious to see whether or not any other issues pop up as I go. But one thing is clear: Word for iPad, despite its flaws, is a great document-making tool. Hopefully there’ll be a way for all the infrastructure around it to catch up.

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