Office iOS app due in spring, but with lots of gotchas

If you want to do anything of value with Microsoft Office for iOS (or Android), you'll need an Office 365 subscription. Cheaper alternatives abound.

Microsoft Office will make its way to iOS and Android devices in the spring of 2013, but users must pay a hefty price to access all of its features -- a move that has left some experts puzzled.

The Office iOS and Android apps will be available for free, but they will only allow users to view Word, Excel and PowerPoint documents -- not edit them, according to a source with direct knowledge of Microsoft's plans. All users will have to register for a Microsoft account, and to enable editing or content creation of any kind, they must buy an Office 365 subscription, this source said.

If Office delivers a subpar experience, people will drop it.

Benjamin Robbins,
Palador

This approach is problematic because there are plenty of full-featured mobile apps that can edit Office documents, such as QuickOffice Pro HD and Pages, said Benjamin Robbins, a principal at Palador, an enterprise mobile consulting firm based in Seattle.

“Microsoft, at large, doesn’t get mobile at all,” he said. “This is proof.”

QuickOffice costs $19.99 in the Apple App Store, and Pages sells for $9.99. For individuals who bring their own devices to work, these one-time charges make much more financial sense than paying $6 per month (the lowest individual subscription rate for Office 365), Robbins said.

Who will buy Office iOS and Android apps?

Others insist Microsoft’s strategy isn’t aimed at consumers or the bring your own device (BYOD) crowd per se, but rather at businesses entrenched in the Microsoft ecosystem that have yet to go mobile. None of the competing Office-like apps measure up in quality to the real thing, said Chris Silva, an analyst with Altimeter Group, a San Mateo, Calif.-based research firm.

Organizations looking at Office 2013 might consider Office 365 instead if they knew it would unlock the power of Office iOS and Android apps, Silva said. At the very least, they might be inclined to purchase subscriptions for remote and mobile workers.

“It’s much more palatable for companies to pay the $6 per month to a trusted entity like Microsoft, knowing they’ll deliver the same experience and same document output on the PC and mobile devices,” Silva said.

All roads lead to Office 365

Microsoft finds itself in the difficult position of selling its software and services for multiple mobile platforms while also trying to drive adoption of its own platform. Office is largely seen as Microsoft’s biggest differentiator.

“Is document fidelity on Office going to be so good on these devices that it blows other options out of the water?” asked Brian Katz, director of mobile engineering for Sanofi, a global pharmaceutical company. “No one can answer that question yet.”

Microsoft Office for iOS is currently ready to go, but the company won't release it until the spring. The Android version is still in development and will tentatively become available in the late-spring/early-summer timeframe. Office is already available on Windows Phone and Windows tablets, and Microsoft's intention is to give its own platforms a small period of time to gain a foothold, according to the source with direct knowledge of the company's plans.  

“The original plan was to have fully fleshed-out versions for iOS and for Android that you could download and use, but they have changed their minds on that,” this source said. “So now what they are going to be are baby versions that allow you to read and/or do light editing.”

Microsoft wants to offer a product that doesn’t alienate Android and iOS users, but makes it difficult enough for them to be productive that they take another look at the Windows ecosystem, the source added. The ultimate goal is for Microsoft to push all users -- businesses and consumers alike -- towards Office 365.

But that approach could be disastrous for Microsoft, Robbins said. It's highly unlikely that iPad owners would sacrifice their investments in the device because its Office app doesn’t work well, he said.

“You can try one app after another until you find the one that works best for you,” he added. “There are lots of options out there for content creation. If Office delivers a subpar experience, people will drop it for something better. It’s not like they need IT departments to download apps or try things out.” 

Microsoft declined to comment on its plans for Office iOS and Android apps, other than to say Office will eventually be available on various mobile platforms.

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How important is Office on iOS or Android for your organization?
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My office can run without MS products
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Typical Microsoft. Once again they have chosen to NOT do the right thing.
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Office 365 is a good concept. Microsoft's ability to run a data center isn't even 3rd world. The third world at least has good hackers. Now if Microsoft let third party providers be the hosts of Office 365, that would be a different thing.
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There are plenty of good products under $10 for android devices, why pay more?
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They need to focus on their consumers. Their licensing is atrocious.
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I have an IPad with Pages and this does what I need for Word files
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What about those with a volume licence agreement for Office? Where will that leave us?
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I think $6.00 a month per user is quite a bit, when there are other one time - low cost fees available. Also, alot of companies (the one I work for included) have full office licenses in the office, so why pay extra for mobile.
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I'll try other options.
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Seems to be an unsound strategic move by Microsoft. But hey, you never know..
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The current iOS products are woeful at Office compatibility, especially pages which looses much of the formatting features.
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I wouldn't pay for a subscription. Just give me a flat price!
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Three reasons for being cautious about following the MS/Office/iOS/Android trail: cost; functionality; and user experience consistency cross-platform.
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All my documents are in Word, Excel and Powerpoint. MS products do these formats better than anyone else. If I can use the Office 365 account for my desktop and tablet, so much the better.
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It's a shame that Microsoft is behaving with Office - they have an amazing oppotunity in ensuring widespread adoption of Office in the mobile world and instead it will be a poor, expnsive and unworthwhile offering.
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Like the articel says, why be forced into a monthly subscription when there are TONS of "one time buy" apps out there for editing Office Documents. Microsoft is WAY out in left field with this one. Yet another example of Microsoft just NOT getting it. First Win8 GUI disaster (in my opinion) and now Office 365? Sorry Microsoft -you just don't have the power to force your will on consumers - not anymore.
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To insure document fidelity and compatibility with Office add-ons for mobile workers I would think $6.00/month is not unreasonable.
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I don't use Office at all, plus Office 365 is just the first step on a different door for Windows 8 tablets to appear. I don't think so, as a consumer I still want to have options, and ultimately the final decision.
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The price of Office 365 for iOS is ridiculous!
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As the Events Manager fopr a Gold Certified MSFT Partner, having the freedom to use iPads at MSFT Events for demos and more, by virtue of running MSFT Office fully licenced from MSFT... Yo, totally worth the coin.
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I'm not looking for another monthly bill. Let me just buy something and have it work.
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At $6 per month, that is $72 per year! Way too expensive for office applications on a tablet device. Even if the tablet versions offer all the same functions as the PC version, users will likely never take full advantage of most of those features.
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tablet eco system is a bit different. Less expensive apps, and very few monthly ongoing costs to purchase an app. Office would be "nice to have" but I have used Pages (as an example) for years and it has been fantastic. MS foolishness it seems to me.
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If it doesn't follow the normal mobile app model, people are unlikely to adopt it.
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too expensive
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Not worth the cost.
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I wouldn't get Office 365, not with cheaper, nonsubscription based alternatives
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It depends upon the price. At $20 per seat, in addition to the costs for the desktops, they may have made themselves too expensive.
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Cost is ridiculous.
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There is too many other alternatives. If I really need Office on a tablet, I could just remote desktop to a computer that has it.
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Depends on the proposed functionality offered by MS over the functionality already available from other apps - and the comparative prices!!
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I prefer 1-time software purchases rather than subscription purchases for home and personal use. My concern is that it is often the case that the former comes out to be less money than the latter.
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Windows for work. Mac for Home. Current diff between MS Office for Mac and Window platform may cause me to pay extra to have the same functionality across the board.
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My org is rolling out virtual desktops that will have to full install of Windows plus Office. I can access my virtual desktop from any device. Much more cost effective,
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MS Office is bloated. Office 365 really doesn't offer much more than I can get with the pay iOS or Android apps and then not be tied to MicroSloth's service. As usual, MS doesn't get mobile.
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I hate subscriptions
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Fed up with Microsoft's Price structure. Our company (~500) have moved to Google, GDocs, Calendar, etc.
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I just want real simple, clean, generic that I can view and edit on anything.
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I dont need to buy Office; Microsoft offers the service free for education.
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Yet again, Microsoft has not learn the lesson!
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Whether to buya subscription to Office 365 depends on the cost of it and the features available.
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We are an MS shop. But our users predominantly have iPads. THIS is all about the user. If the user can read, write and edit MS file formats using products like Pages for iOS then they will. It's MUCH cheaper and works very well. With corporate cloud storage being available it's up to us (IT) to ensure the files are simply easily accessible. The end user device and software is largely up to them on mobile devices. This is a flop for MS. Not going to fly sorry.
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No plans of doing any office work on a tablet. Need a keyboard to be productive. Tablet for reference and reading, sorry.
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Typical Microsoft. The Apple iWork apps do a good job, but you don't get much in the way of functionality. This could have been Microsofts chance to shine and show their versatility, but they had to go and complicate issues. They would be better to provide the Suite as a standalone App., and then provide the capability to connect to Office 365 with additional capability built-in
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strong arm tactic.....
Didn't we learn anything from Apple in the past???
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Ive been a long time user of office products and a sharepoint administrator for over 7 years. Recently I have moved to Google Docs and have fallen in love with the simplicty of it all.
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I don't use Microsoft. I use Linux and Apple.
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I was a CIO of 700 Million Euro + company for several years.

I always did my most complicated stuff on OpenOffice and on iWork. (which according to my MS friends, were extremely COMPLEX)

Today, everyone thanks me for the "forcing" certain changes.

Gone are the days of EXCEL or WORD monopolies.

I can assure you all that 70% of our IT SW efforts were directed towards supporting this unstable platform... for ultimately what ? Nothing remotely connected to corporate productivity.

I may sound harsh. But that is the truth.

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A key consideration is "how much memory will Office 365 take" I' told, 16GB ! If so... No, I would not use, this is a big chunk of total IPad resources. If 1GB... Ok, I would then consider seriously.
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of course i will. it's complete. GUI's familiar.
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I was anxiously waiting for Microsoft's suite but if they expect monthly payments, they're crazy. My monthly bill from my provider is high enough. They should charge $15 for the suite & every major yearly upgrade must be purchased. I think that's fair.

Angelo
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Typical Microsoft. What a slap in the face to customers.
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I already have Pages and quick office. What do I gain?
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No reason to spend the money, as mainly need only basic functionality on these devices (non PC) and cost makes no sense with other alternatives that provide the basics at a much lower cost.
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Office 365 would be a waste of money when I can download a free word/office app from somewhere else.
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Why should I buy Office 365? There are always cheaper alternatives!
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interest problem - M/soft diehards will just have to have office but as you say is it worth it?
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Imicrosoft want to be a series player in the mobile markets, they should consider more realistic pricing
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i rather make use of openOffice or Google Apps.
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I would rather just pay for a version of Office that functioned on Android without Office 365. I really don't need Office 365 / SkyDrive when I have Google Apps. In a way it would seem that MS are asking us to switch platform and Cloud Provider!!
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I don't need the full bells and whistles of office for my daily use. In fact l would prefer a much toned down version of office at a much reduced price.
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Just Microsoft being greedy.
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Paying more money to microsoft for this access just does not make sense; mobile devices are intended for quick access and retrieval, play games, be connected to the world while away from your laptop, desktop and/or datacenter; not for document creation and/or your primary device to replace the ones I just mentioned. Microsoft, get with the program, get connected with the use cases of business needs and the rest of the world!!

Martin Sandoval
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why bother with lots of other software available for a 1 time purchase or free. why get a subscription it would be waste of my money.
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Need a better strategy from Microsoft rather than forcing people to adopt Office 365
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MS should allow you to have Office across any device you are working on at the time, maybe a digital certificate which links devices to one owner would allow this
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The cost of Office365 does not make sense, particularly for growing economies. If it would have costed $1 or so, it could have been a better option
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MS should rather focus on selling Office licenses with 365 subscriptions, not make them a separate product.
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Why buy an Office365 subscription when other options are no cost (or much lower)? And if I buy it, what is to ensure the blackout issues will cease?
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Business users pay for a volume license to Microsoft every year or whenever they "true-up", so why spend the additional money for a few users? This should be a courtesy for the thousands that are spent every year.
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