If you follow tech news at all - and if not, why are you here, Mum? - you know that Microsoft finally got around to releasing Office for iPad.
Within hours of the launch, Word became the most downloaded application for iPads in Apple's app store.
The Excel and Powerpoint apps were the third and fourth most popular free app downloads, respectively, in the store.
Note that the apps themselves are free, but advanced functionalities - such as, for instance, editing a document - require an Office 365 subscription. A Home Premium subscription to Office 365 is $99 / £80 per year, which is a lot for home users. Fair enough, many Office users will presumably get the subscription through their employer, but many companies still don’t have subscriptions, so that is hardly a universal solution.1
In contrast, new iPads get the iWork apps for free, and even for older ones the price was hardly prohibitive - I think it was less than $10 per app when I bought them. Lest you think that the iWork apps are limited, I have successfully used Pages to exchange documents with Word, with change tracking too. Numbers also works well with Excel files, including some pretty detailed models. Keynote falls down a bit, mainly because the iPad is lacking some fonts, but a small amount of fiddling can usually sort that out too. I would assume that the fonts issue will bite PowerPoint on the iPad too, anyway.
The main thing though is that Office on the iPad is just too little, too late. Microsoft should have released this at least two years ago. By then it was clear that the iPad was the tablet in business. Far from the lack of Office killing the iPad, the lack of iPad support seriously undermined Office!
Anyway, I will probably never even download it, despite being an Office power user2 on my Mac. I think it will do okay, simply because of the critical mass of Office users that still exists, but Microsoft missed their chance to own the iOS productivity market the way they own that market on PCs.
A more detailed treatment of the pricing issue:
Apple makes their money on hardware sales. Therefore, they can give away iWork for iOS by baking its development costs into the overall iOS development costs.
Google makes their money on targeted advertising. Therefore, they can give away Google Drive because they’re scraping documents and tailoring ad content as a result. That’s pretty creepy, and might be against your employer’s best practices for confidentiality of information.
Microsoft doesn’t make money on iPad hardware sales, nor do they scrape Office documents for ads. Therefore, they charge you money to use their software beyond the basics. Makes sense to me.
Makes sense to me too.
Of course Microsoft may still make more money on Office this way by avoiding rampant piracy on the PC side. The question then becomes: what does this do to their market share? Part of the ubiquity of Microsoft was driven by wholesale piracy, especially among home users. ↩
Well, Word and PowerPoint, at least. Us marketing types don’t use much Excel, as a rule. ↩