Does Office for iPad turn iPad into a work tool?

After years of delay, Microsoft has finally unveiled a version of its ubiquitous Office suite for the iPad. So can we now use the iPad as our primary electronic work tool?

Many are trying it out, as Microsoft reported 12 million downloads in the last week. As our sister publication FierceContentManagement explains: downloading the apps is free, but to actual use them, users must pay for an Office 365 subscription to edit and create documents, spreadsheets and presentations on the iPad. An Office 365 subscription costs $69.99 per year for an individual and $99.99 per year for a household.

Some experts say Office for iPad does make their iPad into an effective work tool; others are not so sure.

Geoffrey Fowler writes in his Wall Street Journal personal tech column that Office for iPad "just barely" makes the iPad into a work device.

Office for iPad "succeeds in bringing simple work productivity to a touch screen without forcing us to learn new software, buy an unfamiliar device or ditch the file formats we use most often…But Office for iPad commits two cardinal sins that you'll have to be willing to forgive," Fowler writes.

First, you can't print from Office for iPad. And second, collaboration is limited. In addition, you have to pay the annual Office 365 subscription price to fully utilize the Office suite.

James Kendrick with ZDNet is a bit more enthusiastic about Office for iPad. He admits that he was initially wrong about his view that Microsoft had waited too long to unveil Office for iPad.

"Microsoft has totally built the iPad versions of the apps to offer just the right features to make them a worthy addition to iPad owners' tool box. They don't seem bloated, yet they will handle most everything iPad owners are likely to need. All three Office apps have the right mix of features and usability that is appropriate for tablets," Kendrick writes.

Jim Dalrymple with Loop Magazine does not share Kendrick's enthusiasm. "I launched the Office for iPad apps a few times--although I wasn't able to do anything without a subscription--and I wasn't all that impressed. Certainly not enough to pay $99 a year to unlock the apps, especially when I have Pages, Numbers and Keynote sitting there ready to use for free," Dalrymple writes.

"The challenge for Microsoft is to make Office for iPad accessible to more users. That would mean cutting out the $99 subscription price, or at least making it more attractive. I can't see Microsoft doing that," he adds.

So the jury is out. Certainly, the hefty Microsoft Office 365 subscription price will discourage many users, who will use the free iWork suite instead. Only time will tell whether the 12 million users who downloaded Office for iPad actually pay to use it.

For more:
- read Fowler's views
- check out Kendrick's review
- see Dalrymple's commentary

Related Articles:
Office for iPad: Does it live up to the hype?
Microsoft Office arrives on iPad as free download
Microsoft Office on iPad could be unveiled next week