February 05, 2013, 5:05 PM — Rumors have been floating around for some time that Microsoft is hard at work developing Microsoft Office apps for iOS--or more specifically for the Apple iPad. Speculation about Office for iOS has grown following the launch of Office 2013 and the new Office 365, but Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer appears to have squashed that dream for the time being.
When asked about progress on Office apps for iOS, Ballmer responded, "We do have a way for people always to get to Office through the browser, which is very important." While that may be technically true, I disagree with Ballmer that it satisfies the need. I've been a champion of Office for iOS since the iPad first came out. Here are three reasons Microsoft needs to release native Microsoft Office apps for iOS and Android:
1. Not compatible with Office on Demand
One of the benefits of subscribing to Office 365--as opposed to simply purchasing Office 2013--is that it includes a feature called Office On Demand. Office On Demand enables you to log in from any Windows 7 or Windows 8 system and work with streamed virtual versions of the full Office applications. Unfortunately, Office On Demand doesn't work with iOS or Android.
2. Office Web Apps aren't the same
In dismissing the idea of Office for iOS, Ballmer implies that using Office Web Apps from the iPad browser delivers a sufficient experience. Facebook and LinkedIn each had a similar stance regarding the iPad, but eventually came around. While it is technically possible to interact with Office Web Apps through the browser, a native app delivers a far superior experience.
My experience in trying to use Office Web Apps from an iPad left quite a bit to be desired. Microsoft has addressed some of the major issues, and Office Web Apps have gone from dysfunctional to tolerable, but they're still severely crippled compared to the real Microsoft Office applications. If Microsoft's OneNote, SkyDrive, and Lync apps for iOS are any indication, the rest of the Microsoft Office would greatly benefit from having dedicated apps.