Does Microsoft Office for iOS Matter?

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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.

9 replies
  1. Miguel Marcos says:

    I work in an environment where we incorporate lots of automation in the Office apps, especially Excel, the type of automation that is impossible to replicate in Pages, Numbers, etc. This will be excellent for our users who are traveling or in meetings.

      • Chucky says:

        I heavily personalized my Microsoft Word template for my desired automated workflow back in 1996, and it still functions perfectly in 2014, continuing letting me have my specifically desired workflow. Compare to Pages and its abysmal, (and constantly changing) AppleScript directory.

  2. Chucky says:

    “Compare this to Apple’s offerings: Pages, Numbers and Keynote are free.”

    And you get exactly what you pay for.

    Frankly, if you are keeping your personal data in Pages / Numbers / Keynote, you’re just insane. Never mind the constant regressions in the apps over time, think of the fact that Apple seems to think 5 year old documents are too old for you to open. I mean, even if you missed that one, haven’t we learned a lesson from AppleWorks and many, many other examples?

    Storing your personal data in an Apple proprietary file format is quite literally insane. You are setting yourself up for sure headaches and heartbreaks down the line.

    • William says:

      And saving your content in a Microsoft proprietary file format is any less insane? No, no, no. Cut your ties to any such attempts to “lock-in” and use open formats instead, whatever the tool you prefer. RTF, for example, is far, far preferable to .DOC or .DOCX. Or .pages, for that matter.

      • Chucky says:

        “And saving your content in a Microsoft proprietary file format is any less insane?”

        Yes. Much, much, much less insane. I agree with you that non-proprietary file formats are generally the proper way to go, and I do backup my vital Microsoft Word documents into .rtf. But compared to Apple proprietary file formats, using Microsoft proprietary file formats is less insane by an order of magnitude. You can open your two decade old Microsoft Office proprietary file formats, fergawdsakes. Of course, there are no guarantees for the future, but Microsoft has a lot of money in the bank, and crucially, their interests align with yours in providing that backwards compatibility.

    • Miguel Marcos says:

      It’s been a long time since I had to face that issue. That is an excellent point. In Office the apps can continue to open old file formats.

  3. Chucky says:

    “if I did use these apps regularly (which I don’t)”

    For the sake of the polar bears, please tell me you’re not using Pages, Kirk.

    If you’re using something sensible like TextEdit, or the like, I can sleep soundly. But if you’re actually using Pages, it’d start to make me think platinum encrusted HDMI cables might have rationale to them after all…


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