It has been reported from Time.com and zdnet.com that Microsoft is expected to finally release Office for the iPad. The expectation is that Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote will be the applications included in the suite. This has been a long awaited announcement, and will likely be officially confirmed during a Microsoft news conference to be held on March 27, 2014.
Offering Microsoft applications on the iPad will be somewhat of a game changer. There has been much criticism abut the iPad as a consumption oriented device not well suited to productivity. Office is one on the primary productivity suites widely used throughout all markets, and will surely help to support productive activities using the iPad. While many schools don’t necessarily require a specific word processor, spreadsheet, or presentation tool, the option to use Office will surely help to increase the potential value of the iPad, particularly in higher education and secondary school settings.
It is highly likely that Microsoft is going to use the existing model of cloud based software, Office 365. This is a subscription service, not a one-time license purchase. Microsoft currently offers very attractive deal for university students at $79 for a four year subscription. For K-12, Microsoft offers Office to K-12 students for free if the school licenses Office 365 ProPlus or Office Professional Plus for their faculty members.
The exact pricing will not be known until Microsoft makes an official announcement, but the cost should be relatively low for schools. It is highly unlikely it will be free, as the iPad in direct competition with the Microsoft Surface 2 tablet. For K-12, the question becomes a value proposition. The Apple iWorks suite of applications, which includes word processing, spreadsheet, and presentation software is included in the iPad purchase, so any additional cost might not be deemed worthwhile or financially feasible.
The availability of Office will be overall a good thing for many iPad users, but might further drive up the total cost of ownership beyond just the software cost. Using Office applications generally requires a keyboard because text input is not very efficient using the LCD keyboard. It will also remain to be seen how well Excel and PowerPoint work with a touch interface vs. the traditional mouse.
More will be known come March 27, 2014.