Written by Philip Magson
Many of us have been frustrated, at some point, by the integration of Microsoft Office with iOS devices. Whether the issue was price or compatibility, this is a trend which has prevented Apple business users ever really falling in love with the flagship app… until recently, when Microsoft Office for iOS shot to the top of the App Store charts. The reason? Microsoft had made public use of the Office apps free of charge. Although it’s taken a while, is this the moment Office took over the Apple business user demographic?
I’ve been watching Microsoft Office creep towards this moment for quite some time: recent history has seen Microsoft bet heavily on mobile strategy – not surprising considering Satya Nadella’s comments in 2014. Since then, Microsoft Office has extended its reach across a number of platforms, including Android, slowly but surely removing pay features for mobile devices. If you needed any more convincing of Microsoft’s emphasis on the mobile marketplace – Office is still available off the shelf at a cost of hundreds of pounds.
Having used the new iOS Office myself, I can vouch for it being an impressive and (pretty much) comprehensive tool which should be warmly received by Apple users. It doesn’t really need saying, but Microsoft is playing catch up with mobile business users, who have been able to use free software from Apple and Google for ages. By offering Office for free, the company is cutting off a revenue stream, but attracting customers to a vast new economic landscape where they can access a wider network of Microsoft products, like Microsoft Office 365. iOS Office may be free but Microsoft will be hoping its Office 365 subscription packages will continue to lure users, with extra features and capabilities, like advanced editing, collaboration and unlimited storage.
Is Microsoft too late to the party with its fresh approach to Office on the iOS? Not if the droves of customers driving it to the top of the App Store charts are anything to go by. Downloads of Office apps for iPad and iPhone spiked after the announcement earlier in November. Microsoft reckons 1 billion people use Office and its iPad app has been downloaded 40 million times – combine this with the popularity of Apple devices in the average workplace and the potential impact of iOS Office is significant. In my experience, iPads and iPhones, especially the new iPhone 6, and 6+ with its larger screen, are devices ideally suited to Office’s capabilities – and should put Microsoft toe to toe with its competitors.
With Office now running seamlessly on iOS it’s likely that your workplace is going to see a shift in the way your employees use their Apple devices for business. A free and functioning Office on iPad and iPhone promises flexibility and access on a global scale – the only stumbling block being whether users choose to make the move from existing platforms, like Google Drive – and ignore competitors, like Dropbox – who are all vying for attention in the cloud storage war. If you’ve resisted iOS Office in the past, because of its pricing and compatibility problems, this latest update might just be the one to change your mind.