Microsoft brings Office to the iPhone

Almost as old as the iPhone itself are the rumours that have persistently claimed that Microsoft would release a version of Office for Apple's smartphone. Time and again, the rumours have resurfaced, occasionally with images - and of course, the analyst community has frequently weighed in with its opinions on the matter too. 

Today though, the dream has finally come true, with the launch of Microsoft Office for iOS 'Office Mobile for Office 365 subscribers' - a rather verbose, if accurate, name for the new suite of apps. As the nomenclature makes clear, you'll need an Office 365 subscription to use the apps; if you don't have one, you won't be able to take advantage of the Word, Excel and PowerPoint functionality that the new suite offers.

That functionality is fairly basic at the moment, but covers the essentials that the majority of users will need on the move; in this sense, it's very much like the Office Mobile suite that's integrated into every Windows Phone. The cloud integration for today's connected devices is present, with the apps pulling in docs from SkyDrive and SharePoint, and once those files are on your device, Microsoft promises that they'll "look great on your phone, thanks to support for charts, animations, SmartArt Graphics, and shapes."

As with other smartphone productivity suites, you're unlikely to want to create any massive, complex documents with these apps; their real value comes in being able to quickly create docs to work on later, or edit existing files on the move. Word, Excel and PowerPoint files can all be opened and edited, with formatting and content remaining in tact. 

'Resume Reading' support via SkyDrive reopens a Word document at the last place where you were reading or editing it. As in the Excel and PowerPoint apps, you can format, edit, add comments and save changes to documents, and while the UI certainly appears easy to use and interact with, it's unlikely that you'll want to spend too much time doing any of those things.

ZDNet's Mary Jo Foley noted comments by Microsoft officials regarding using the new suite of apps on an iPad; while it can be upscaled for used on the tablets' larger screens, Microsoft doesn't recommend that, instead directing those users to the browser-based Office Web Apps. 

The deployment of Office Mobile for Office 365 subscribers is a significant one, and not only because of the launch on iOS. It also underlines Microsoft's commitment to moving away from one-off software purchases to providing software as a service, with subscription-based offerings. 

Even more significant is the fact that Microsoft has apparently capitulated to Apple's demands over subscription fees. Alex Wilhelm over at The Next Web was able to confirm that not only is it possible to sign up for an Office 365 sub from within the apps on iOS, but that Apple will get a 30% slice of that fee. Back in December, we reported on disagreements between Apple and Microsoft over these fees, with Apple reportedly insisting on taking a cut of SkyDrive and Office subscriptions on its platform. It seems that Apple won the fight.

Microsoft isn't sharing any information about a version of the new apps for iPad just yet, nor whether it will make a version available for Android any time soon. But for now, if you've got any Apple handset more recent than an iPhone 4 or iPod Touch (5G) with iOS 6.1 or above, you can pick up the apps free via the App Store

Images via Microsoft / Apple App Store

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56 Comments

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...but that Apple will get a 30% slice of that fee...

Could Microsoft finally agreeing to this be related to Bing becoming the default search engine for Siri on iOS 7?

Thank you Microsoft! This has made my transition to the Apple world even easier. I just bought Office 365 University that comes with a 4 year subscription for my new iMac and my still in the box, Haswell MacBook Air. Now my iPhone and iPad can join the party. This is just a good move for Microsoft in promoting their product across all platforms.

Editing office documents on a tiny 4 inch screen?

LOL, give me a break.

Now you can probably see why a bigger screen is a nice thing to have.

I guess you are too young and never knew Windows Mobile had Office Mobile and people did use it on smaller screens. These are not meant to do vast amount of editing it was meant to do a quick edit without the need to take out a laptop.

Wow, an Office app where you cant even select the FONT! Good job MS! Keep pushing out crippled software in a vain effort to protect your crumbling empire!

Look at the relationship between Microsoft, Google, and Apple. Microsoft and Apple may have closer and better relationship. This maybe the way to work with your enemy to take out the other one first ...

If you want to stay up to date with Office and require Outlook, Office 365 is pretty much your best option. This is for people that live and breathe Microsoft Office. If you are only doing some casual editing or writing and doing it very seldom, this isn't for you; there's plenty of apps for that, in that case.

EDIT: For clarity, when I say that you require Outlook, I mean on the desktops, meaning that the Home and Student version of office won't be enough for you.

Well it's free for Windows Phone no subscription required. Also Microsoft reported two weeks ago that Office 365 has one million users. So if you take that number and figure in iPhone users you can see that it's probably a small number of people. I mean if you are willing to pay the subscription then they got you already so.

neonspark said,
I wonder if MSFT will tout office as a killer feature given how it just killed windows phone. oh the irony.

Just like Office for Mac killed Windows and the PC? Oh, wait...

Excellent, I do have a 365 subscription (well the student version), and I will be trying this later. Now, this needs to come to Android.

android? given google won't create windows apps for any kind, as they are still in denial that the tablet market belongs to windows, it is unlikely MSFT will bother with their platform.

neonspark said,
android? given google won't create windows apps for any kind, as they are still in denial that the tablet market belongs to windows, it is unlikely MSFT will bother with their platform.
You do realize Microsoft creates plenty of Android apps, right?

Also, by making Office available to Android, they only benefit as they would get more 365 subscriptions = money for Microsoft...They don't have much to lose here.

techbeck said,
I wont be holding my breath on that one.

They are creating one for Android and even iPad. They teased it quite a while ago, but since then removed it from their site. The point of the Office 365 model is to be able to use their services regardless what device you use.

Now I know that making Money is shooting themselves in the foot. Heck if anything is shows they are confident in all their product plus the amount of money they will make is astronomical.

Hahah, Apple has been working heavily on its own office competitor so dont expect MS to last much longer at the top with Office. Also this version looks more complete than the version on WP8. I feel as an MS customer I have just been F'd over. Next phone will be an Android and I will never look back at this ignoramus company. The saying "if you can beat em join em" is dumb, if you cant beat em find an ally double efforts and destroy them.

How so? I'd prefer using an official app to open Office files over so many third party Office viewer/editor apps on the App Store that don't have as nice polish to them/don't work as well.

I believe this would mainly be aimed at business/education (where people would be given Office 365 access).

I think there is a need for an iPad app too. The app should not require internet access all the time, but have automatic background of syncing files when online.

But you see its because you use iOS platform that you dont see the problem. Imagine all those things that make it nice to have iOS were suddenly handed over to Android and Windows Phone and you bought your iOS devices outright as is the majority case here in Australia. It sucks!

This version looks about the same as on WP8, but the WP8 version also includes OneNote and its free. So no MS customer got F'd over.

Iridium said,
Hahah, Apple has been working heavily on its own office competitor so dont expect MS to last much longer at the top with Office. Also this version looks more complete than the version on WP8. I feel as an MS customer I have just been F'd over. Next phone will be an Android and I will never look back at this ignoramus company. The saying "if you can beat em join em" is dumb, if you cant beat em find an ally double efforts and destroy them.

Apple and MS have a good relationship - did you miss OSX Office? People forget that Office is a big breadwinner on it's own and that MS is more than a platform company. This makes a lot of sense with a lot of companies accepting BYOD in the workplace and allows MS to leverage not only 365 subscriptions but to cement exchange in the backroom. People have such a narrow view sometimes - and personally i'll be amazed when Apple produce a multiplatform Office competitor of any worth..

Iridium said,
Hahah, Apple has been working heavily on its own office competitor so dont expect MS to last much longer at the top with Office. Also this version looks more complete than the version on WP8. I feel as an MS customer I have just been F'd over. Next phone will be an Android and I will never look back at this ignoramus company. The saying "if you can beat em join em" is dumb, if you cant beat em find an ally double efforts and destroy them.

Wow.... You're just throwing your investment away just because 365 iOS users can now use Office? What are you on, buddy?

apple has been working on an office competitor for decades. still trying. they can't make it happen because it will never be office.

Iridium said,
Hahah, Apple has been working heavily on its own office competitor so dont expect MS to last much longer at the top with Office. Also this version looks more complete than the version on WP8. I feel as an MS customer I have just been F'd over. Next phone will be an Android and I will never look back at this ignoramus company. The saying "if you can beat em join em" is dumb, if you cant beat em find an ally double efforts and destroy them.
As shown in this post, making sense while writing is a PITA. or trolling much?

How are they shooting themselves in the foot? They're only going to get more customers through more availability. Both Office and Office for Mac sell well, and the Office 365 subscription includes 5 devices (PCs, tablets, phones, etc.).

Gungel said,
This version looks about the same as on WP8, but the WP8 version also includes OneNote and its free. So no MS customer got F'd over.

Isn't there a separate OneNote app already available For the iPhone?

Iridium said,
WHY ON EARTH DOES MICROSOFT KEEP SHOOTING ITSELF IN THE FOOT!?!?!?

It is included free with Windows Phone 8. Now add in the exclusive new games coming out for Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8 like a new touch Halo title, and Microsoft is doing the 'opposite' of 'shooting themselves in the foot'.

Microsoft has played nice by providing a lot of their Apps to iPhone and Android without the usual strings attached, and it is time they start leveraging their offerings to push their platforms.

Apple and Google leverage their offerings, why shouldn't Microsoft?

Think it is bogus you need a 365 sub. Those who use the desktop version of Office, older older versions because they cannot afford newer software, are now forced to go to a sub in order to use the app. Should be interesting to see how well this does.

testman said,
Clearly being used to upsell Office 365.

Get used to it.

Well, yea. Doesnt mean I have to agree or like it. Just my opinion.

techbeck said,
Those who use the desktop version of Office, older older versions because they cannot afford newer software, are now forced to go to a sub in order to use the app.

You're talking about iPhone users. Generally speaking, they have money to burn.

techbeck said,
Think it is bogus you need a 365 sub. Those who use the desktop version of Office, older older versions because they cannot afford newer software, are now forced to go to a sub in order to use the app. Should be interesting to see how well this does.

This isn't bogus. Office 365 is a service, and this suite of apps is included in that service. If you want to use it for free, use the free web apps, which are great on mobile too.