The long-awaited Office for iPad was launched today.
Office for iPad is clearly aimed at driving users to adopt Microsoft’s cloud-based tools. It’s fine as a document reader, but to edit or create documents requires a $99.99 per year Office 365 subscription.
To access cloud-based documents, which is the primary way you'll work with documents, they have to reside on Microsoft OneDrive (the relabeled SkyDrive service). There’s no option to access your docs on Dropbox, Google Drive or any other third party platforms. You can get a free OneDrive account with 7 GB of storage, but for those who actively use Dropbox or another service, the idea of adding another cloud host for documents doesn’t make much sense. That leaves an opening for tools like QuickOffice Pro, acquired by Google, which integrates with both gmail and Dropbox.
The applications themselves seem robust. They didn't just take the desktop apps and shrink them; clearly a lot of effort went into building device-appropriate apps. I'll leave full reviews on these to others, but my quick thoughts are that the apps themselves are solid.
If you're an active MS Office user who doesn't use Google Docs or Dropbox, Office 365 and OneDrive would make a lot of sense. But, for the gmail/dropbox/google docs crowd, I don't expect much takeup. For me, the biggest benefit might be to use the PowerPoint viewer as a way to more easily run PowerPoint decks from my iPad to a projector. I typically use Keynote for that, but they're not 100% compatible, so a solid PowerPoint viewer will be great for that occasional need.
The big winner here is Apple. Microsoft has resisted developing iPad-specific versions of Office applications because they still held out hope that those applications could ultimately sway users to buy Windows Mobile-based tablets. Clearly, Apple is winning the BYOD war by a large margin and this serves as Microsoft's endorsement of that. Where that leaves Microsoft's mobile strategy, in the long run, is an unanswered question.