Talking tech since 2003

Well, it’s finally happened: Microsoft followed through on yesterday’s predictions and formally announced Office Suite for iPad.

And unless you have or intend to get a subscription to Office 365, there’s really no good reason to download it.

But before we dive into that, let’s cover the basics of Microsoft’s announcements today. As expected, the company pulled back the curtain on a touch-optimized version of its premier productivity software applications, including Word, Powerpoint, Excel, and all the rest of the gang.

Here’s the word (haha) straight from Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella himself:

“A billion people rely on Office every day, and we’ve worked diligently to create a version of Word, Excel and PowerPoint that delivers the best productivity experience available on the iPad. It’s built from the ground up for touch, is unmistakably Office in its design, and is optimized for iPad. Office for iPad offers unmatched rendering of content and delivers unparalleled authoring, analysis and presentation experiences that Office customers expect on all of their devices. Download it today for free.”

Yes, the apps are free to download from iTunes, but, as alluded to above, you can’t create or edit any of the accompanying files without a subscription to Office 365, which, in its most basic configuration, costs a hundred bucks a year. Microsoft also announced Enterprise Mobility Services, or EMS, a suite of applications and tools to help businesses and organizations manage Microsoft content for many users. If you work for a company that relies on Microsoft’s products and offers up those products to its employees, chances are good that they’re going to benefit from EMS in some way.

And if they do provide access to Office, and can benefit from EMS, then the announcement that Office is available for iPad today is great news. Maybe you’ve got an iPad of your own, or maybe your company provides them to employees—regardless, if you’ve got a subscription, you’re good to go.

But—and this is a big but—the days of Microsoft Office being necessary to get meaningful work done are long over. There are so many free and very functional alternatives that I really do wonder whether or not this version of Office for iPad will find many customers outside of big organizations, well, anywhere. Google Docs works great for PCs connected to the web—and there are offline options available if you need them. Moreover, there are tons of apps for iPad and Android devices, like Quickoffice or CloudOn, that let users access, read, edit, and create Office files for free.

And having tried Office for iPad for all of 30 seconds, I already found a huge flaw that makes me less inclined to use it again: it doesn’t play well with Dropbox. I can access Dropbox and open files into Word, but the app will not let me save to my Dropbox app. Sure, Microsoft wants me to use OneDrive. But what if I already use Dropbox? What if I want to use some other option?

All that said, I actually like using Word. I’m used to it, and it gives me everything I want. But just because it’s the best at what it does, that doesn’t mean that it’s worth paying a hundred dollars a year for, especially when put next to extremely capable alternatives that cost nothing.

Microsoft waited too long to release Office for iPad—so long that competitors have come in and shown that we don’t actually need Microsoft to get our work done. But even if this weren’t true…even if Microsoft still had a chance of proving that its programs were not only the best, but also worth paying for, the company’s decision to stick with the overpriced subscription model will end up doing far more harm than good. I could see selling each app separately for five, ten, or even twenty dollars. I’d pay twenty dollars for Word on iPad…but I’d only pay it once. And I suspect the millions of people who use iPads in lieu PCs will feel the same way.

[Source: The Official Microsoft Blog]

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