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It’s official - Microsoft unwraps Office for iPad, including a limited free version

by David Needle

March 27 2014

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella talks up Office on the iPad, but says commitment via Office 365 is to bring the best version of Office to other tablets as well.
Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella talks up Office on the iPad, but says commitment via Office 365 is to bring the best version of Office to other tablets as well.

The wait is over. Microsoft formally unveiled the much-anticipated version of Office for iPad today at an event in San Francisco with a few surprises.

Office for iPad is set for availability today at 11 a.m. PST at Apple’s App Store based on a so-called fremium model that lets you download a free version with limited capabilties. In this case that means the ability to read and present Office files. 

To get the fuller ability to create and edit Office files on the iPad you will need to subscribe to Microsoft’s Office 365 service which is the cloud-based version of iPad.

Some speculation leading up to the announcement was that you would need an Office 365 subscription to get any Office capability on the iPad. 

Following an intro on Microsoft's cloud and mobile strategy, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella handed over the stage to Julia White, a General Manager in Microsoft's Office goup, to demo Office for iPad which includes the three key Office apps - Word, Excel and PowerPoint.  (In fact, there actually is no Office for Pad in Apple's iTunes store, you have to download the apps individually, Word, Excel and PowerPoint).

White emphasized and showed how Office for iPad is a true version of Office that ensures the consistent fidelity and display of files. "This is not a ported Windows app to the iPad, but uniquely built for the iPad with a great touch experience," she said. 

Some productivity apps on the iPad that let you work with Office files have issues maintaining the correct formatting across all file types. 

"PowerPoint looks beautiful ...  all my imagery is there, with nice big touch handles and all my picture style designs," said White in the demo. 

(See also - App competitors unafraid of Microsoft's Office for iPad

Windows is a massive agenda

Nadella did not elaborate on what might be coming next for the Windows version of Office on tablets, but he did say "Windows is a massive agenda for us and you'll see us innovate in devices. We're committed to run our applications cross-platform great." 

As for the decision to support the iPad, Nadella said it's not "a massive tradeoff" to support a competitor, but "a reality. The reality of our customers" and went on to say the company is committed to supporting the growing user base of over a billion Office users worldwide.

"Office for iPad is one step ... getting access to these beautiful apps is the news of the day, but our commitment moving forward is across the web, to all tablets and PCs, that's our commitment to Office 365 everywhere." 

(For more iPad news, trends, apps and reviews, sign up for the free TabTimes for iPad newsletter)

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