Will they or won’t they? That’s been the question for months now revolving around whether the folks at Microsoft would be releasing an Office app for iOS.
This morning, Microsoft answered that question by releasing a verison of Office for iPhones — one that requires an Office 365 subscription.
Office Mobile for iPhone, as Microsoft is calling it, is free from the Apple App Store for Office 365 Home Premium and Office 365 ProPlus subscribers.
The app allows users to view and edit Word, Excel and PowerPoint documents. Microsoft says the app has been optimized for the small screen with features such as “Slide Navigator” that allows users to go quickly through PowerPoint slides. Users can also review and add comments in Word and Excel documents and store directly to SkyDrive.
Note, though, that if your Office 365 subscription ends, you’ll no longer be able to access the Office Mobile app, though your data will remain stored in the phone and any data you’ve stored in SkyDrive will still be accessible over the web.
It’s been rumored for a while now that Microsoft would be bringing a version of Office to iOS that would require an Office 365 subscription. That makes sense since Microsoft wants to drive users to this new subscription model for Office.
But there’s no Office app for the iPad — at least not yet. Microsoft declined to say whether there are plans to release such an app (or if the company plans to release an Office app for Android, for that matter).
In the meantime, Microsoft is recommending that iPad users use Office Web Apps, saying that the company has made some touch enhancements to the program.
Longtime Microsoft analyst Rick Sherlund, with investment bank Nomura, issued a note to investors this morning, saying:
Office 365 is a very small subset of Microsoft’s Office user base (possibly a few percent); therefore, we view this as a very limited first step in the right direction of delivering Office functionality across platforms that compete with its own Windows platform and, for now, not tablets.
Technically, we are not sure that it would be that much more work for Microsoft to release this for the iPad with optimization for the larger screen size, but we think Microsoft may want to hold off a bit until Windows 8.1 is out and Windows tablets have more traction in the market.
But, Sherlund warned, Microsoft “dragging its feet on Office for the iPad and Android for competitive reasons intended to give Windows 8 and Surface a chance to gain traction … (is) enabling competition for Office to entrench itself on these platforms and Office is a bigger business for Microsoft than Windows, so we see more urgency to preserve and extend the Office franchise cross platform.”
Here’s a video from Microsoft on Office Mobile for iPhone: