With much fanfare and along with new CEO Satya Nadella’s first public appearance, Microsoft on Thursday finally released Office for iPad. I say “finally” because it’s taken four years for Microsoft to release a version of the ubiquitous productivity suite for the world’s most popular tablet. That’s a large potential customer base that Microsoft left in the cold for four years. Did that mean that iPad owners patiently waited four years before they could type up documents on Apple’s magical slate? Hardly. And they didn’t have to pony up $99.99 for a year’s subscription either.
Plenty of free alternatives exist to provide iPad users with word processing, spreadsheet and presentation capabilities. Google provides its free office suite — Google Docs, Sheets and Slides — for use with Google Drive. QuickOffice is also free on iOS and integrates with Google Drive as well. And Apple’s own iWork applications — Pages, Numbers and Keynote — are easy to use, tailored for the iPad, and available for free on any iOS device purchased since September 2013.
Yes, the Office apps — Word, Excel and PowerPoint — have rocketed to the top of the App Store rankings. Yes, as far as usability and features go, they’ve gotten fantastic early reviews, though oddly there is currently no way to print your Office documents from your iPad. And, yes, the apps are also listed as free. But after four years of using free or low-cost alternatives to Office and incorporating these apps into their habits and workflows, it’s unlikely a large majority of iPad owners will suddenly see the need to pay for a $100 subscription for Office 365 to get slightly more functionality.