Does Microsoft Office for iOS Matter?

03/28/2014

Microsoft has released iPad versions of its Office apps, Word, Excel and PowerPoint. Microsoft is very late to the party, so the real question here is do these apps matter?

Alas, the answer is Yes! They matter a great deal to people who are locked into the Microsoft ecosystem, mostly because the companies they work for depend on these products to create documents. While Apple’s iWork apps – Pages, Numbers and Keynote – do a good job at importing Microsoft documents, they’re not perfect. If you’ve got a complex report that you’ve been working on in Word, and you want to access it on your iPad, you can either export that file in RTF format, or import it in Pages from the .doc file, but there’s a good chance that the formatting won’t match. If you use any kind of auto-numbering or fields, they won’t transfer at all, so you simply couldn’t use Pages to edit the document (though you may be able to view it).

But this app is expensive. Office Mobile is free to download, and you can use it for 30 days; after that, you need an Office 365 subscription (currently $10 a month, but a cheaper Office 365 Personal subscription will soon be available for $7 a month; you can purchase a one-year subscription via an in-app purchase for $100). You can view documents without a subscription, but you cannot either create or edit documents without paying.

Compare this to Apple’s offerings: Pages, Numbers and Keynote are free. They’re free to download, and free to use. (Granted this is a recent change, but ever before they became free, they only cost $10 each; to buy, not per month.)

However, Microsoft’s subscription also includes access to desktop versions of these apps. If you get, for example, an Office 365 Home Premium subscription, you have access to Office apps on up to 5 PCs or Macs, along with 5 tablets. You also get an extra 20 GB storage on OneDrive, for each of up to five users. So, if you want to use Office apps at home, and have several users, this is almost a good deal.

I’m not a fan of the subscription model, but if I did use these apps regularly (which I don’t), and with multiple users, I’d probably consider that to be a fair deal. The upcoming Office 365 Personal subscription at $7 a month seems a bit steep to me; I think a single user subscription should be about half the price of the five-user version.

By the way, you can get this subscription cheaper from Amazon: an Office 365 Home Premium one-year subscription is currently only $67.15.