by Lane Shelton
Let me start by saying this—Microsoft should have created Office for iPad when they released Office 2013. If you ever owned an iPad you probably said to yourself, “Why can’t I have Office on this device? It would make my work-life complete. I‘d attach a keyboard to it, and then I wouldn’t need my company-issued bricktop anymore!” If this sounds like you, read on.
Previously, you could do everything else on the iPad, but Office. Sure, there were Office-like things out there, and Office emulators via virtual desktops, but it just wasn’t the same. Then Microsoft begrudgingly released OneNote on the iPad and that was great, but not quite what we were looking for. Microsoft’s new CEO is supposed to make Microsoft ubiquitous and cool again—and Office for iPad is a great first step. Let’s face it, they could potentially create a competitive advantage for the iPad against Window slates and their own Surface. I wish they had realized a long time ago that as this tide rises, it lifts all boats. A full and robust Office experience on the iPad is something customers have wanted for a long, long time. So let me say it here officially: Thank you, Microsoft! If this is what the future Microsoft looks like, sign me up.
New Life in a Stale Relationship
Microsoft has unveiled some great new features and functionality that make Office feel like a first date. I haven’t fully plumbed the depths yet, but initial impressions are good. The interface is smooth and fully designed with touch in mind—duh. I say this, because it’s more than a simple port of Office apps to the iPad. This has the feel of something new. Here are a few examples:
Convenient: There are easy-to-use sliders throughout to make many functions simple and appear right where your brain says they should be.
Simple: Selecting text in Word or cells in Excel is intuitive, and the interface overall is crisp and smart.
Innovative: I was able to save files to OneDrive, SharePoint, and even locally on the iPad itself. A nice feature is moving a file from the iPad to OneDrive with just a simple push. It feels like a well-crafted and polished iPad app—a bit of a paradox—and that’s saying something given who created it. In fact, it’s so good I dare say that it’s going to make using Office 2013 on a Windows slate seem clunky.
I give Office for iPad two thumbs up! I’m glad to see Microsoft can create genuinely good end-user software on a non-Windows platform—and they seem to have done so with at least some measure of gusto.
Not Quite Exclusive Yet
My iPad, however, will not replace my laptop entirely. Some key features of Word, PowerPoint, and Excel are not included in the iPad versions. The biggest exclusion for me is Excel Pivot Tables, which didn’t make the cut. That’s okay though, since most people don’t use all the features in Office. I suspect the majority of users will find the streamlined interface and functionality a breath of fresh air. Now I’ll use my iPad as my only go-to secondary device, and I’ll use my laptop a lot less. I can’t wait to see what a revamped touch-interface Office looks like for Windows slates. It’s going to take a lot to separate me from my beloved iPad, but all this tech-geeky goodness and competition means I win either way. Business tech hasn’t been this fun since I figured out how to set up multiplayer Minecraft on my corporate laptop.
(Note to IT—I didn’t really do that, but look away!)
Gotta Have It (At Any Cost)
Now there are always a few weeds lurking in any garden, and here’s some I can see in terms of the business implications. Every Office user with an iPad will want this, and the only way to use it effectively is with an Office 365 subscription for full activation. Many large enterprises have not taken the Office 365 plunge. That may disappoint end-users who will ask for Office 365 subscriptions so they can use the iPad version.
If they’re like me, they’ll end up buying the subscription on their own and downloading the software anyway. Or they’ll use a license from a home subscription they already have, which could lead to saving company files in a personal OneDrive, or even on the iPad itself. Make no mistake—OneDrive is at the center of Office for iPad and presents serious challenges. So think about the implications before you start deploying it. Just don’t wait too long, because end-users will find a way to install it anyway. It has the feel of must-have technology that I will stop at nothing to possess, and I’m not the only crazy person out there. Right?