TRAVEL TECH | Microsoft's Office suite has finally reached the iPad, with an iOS version of Word, Excel and PowerPoint launched overnight and now available as a free download.
Yes, 'free' – as long as all you'll be doing is reading documents. (Microsoft says this also includes making presentations, which in this context means the fine art of letting somebody else read a document).
To edit documents on your iPad, or create new ones on the fly, you'll need to pony up for one of Microsoft's annual Office 365 software rental scheme plans.
Office 365 subscriptions start at A$120 per year year with the Office 365 Home Premium plan which covers all Office for iPad apps installed on up to five tablets, on top of the five copies of Office running on your Windows or Mac laptop or desktop.
In April Microsoft will introduce a cheaper Office 365 Personal scheme for loading Office onto a single tablet and laptop or desktop, priced at A$89 per year.
The new iPad editions of Word, Excel, and PowerPoint all sport the familiar ribbon interface of their desktop siblings but have been designed from the ground up for Apple's tablet, according to Microsoft.
Some tablet-friendly conceits include Excel's customised numeric keyboard for easily working up equations and formulas, and a ' virtual laser pointer' for PowerPoint slideshows.
Of course, all Office for iPad documents use the same native file formats so there's no cumbersome document conversion – just download a document via email, online or from Microsoft's OneDrive cloud and start editing.
You can watch Microsoft's quick Office for iPad introduction video clip below:
Just want those free Office for iPad apps software right now? Here you go!
(A free version of Microsoft's companion OneNote app for the iPad was released in December last year.)
Too late for travellers, or just in time?
Newly-minted Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella has already made "cloud first, mobile first" his mantra for the company, which despite its success in the desktop/notebook and server space has consistently dropped the ball in the fast-growing mobile and cloud segments.
Of course, 'mobile and cloud' is almost the natural home for business travellers – we're always on the go, we're not tied down and we don't want our data to be tied down either.
And a vast number of Windows laptops toted by frequent flyers are accompanied by iPads rather than Windows tablets.
So our question for AusBT readers is: does the release of Office for the iPad come too late, or is it just in time?
Have you already found an Office alternative for your iPad – such as Apple's iWork suite, QuickOffice or Documents To Go – or have you been patiently waiting for Microsoft's official Office app?
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