Moments ago, Microsoft announced Office 365 for the iPad. The name of the product really tells you everything you need to know. It requires a subscription to use. More to the point, it requires a subscription to create and edit. You can view documents for free. Have fun with that. But that is the stuff we already knew. It is the deal breaker that will keep most people from even trying it. Even so, there was a bit of actual news announced at the event.
First, Microsoft's new CEO has made it clear that Microsoft has a new commitment to being available on all platforms. This was punctuated by declaring that Office for the iPad was not a second-class citizen. Rather, it is everything that Office is intended to be on a mobile device. I don't have a transcript of the announcement. But I was specifically listening for something to that effect. They went out of their way to say this. In other words, the New Microsoft is now the old Microsoft: the one that used to make software rather than build platforms. That is a positive and necessary change for the company.
A second takeaway is that Office for iPad feels like a part of Microsoft's wholistic business solutions. It has nothing to do with consumers. Everything from the business model, to the types of examples they presented tells me that, while it would be nice for consumers to adopt a Microsoft solution, the focus is really on corporations. Microsoft is acknowledging that companies are adopting iPhones and iPads, and they need to be where their customers are, and on the devices their customers prefer to use.
Finally, I'm not clear on exactly what it is the iPad version of Office can do that iWork cannot. While there were a few brief demonstrations of the product, there was nothing demonstrated that suggests a $100 per year superiority. Don't get me wrong. It looked nice enough. But Numbers is a simple way to make spreadsheets. Keynote is a beautiful way to make presentations. And Pages is an elegant way to do page layout. My impression was that the biggest thing one could expect from Office 365 is better format fidelity for Office documents. If there is some killer feature, it was not in the demo. We will just have to wait and see what others have to say about it. I'm highly unlikely to spend that kind of money just to take it for a spin.I'll post a link to the video if Microsoft makes it available. That way you can see for yourself. In the meantime, here is a product teaser: