Microsoft is making it easier for iPad users to subscribe to its Office 365 productivity suite.
The company has enabled in-app subscription purchasing on its Office for iPad apps (Word, Excel and PowerPoint). "As we continue to bring Microsoft Office to all platforms and devices, it's important for customers to manage their Office 365 subscription—easily and on the go," stated the company in a blog post authored by the Office 365 Team.
An Office 365 plan is required to unlock the apps' full functionality. Without a subscription, the apps essentially work as document viewers; content cannot be edited.
Although the apps climbed to the top of the Apple App Store rankings soon after their March 27 release, complaints mounted about the roundabout sign-up process. Previously, users were forced to launch a browser to complete the transaction. "You asked for more flexibility in signing up for Office 365 subscriptions on iPad," said the company.
Now, the app's activation process offers the choice of logging on with a pre-existing account or buying a monthly, auto-renewable Office 365 Home ($9.99 per month) or Personal ($6.99 per month). The Office 365 Personal plan, which launched April 15, allows for Office apps to be installed on one PC or Mac and one tablet. The Home version bumps that number to five PCs or Macs and five tablets.
Yearly plans are also available. "If you buy a monthly subscription on your iPad, you can switch to an annual subscription from your iPad, or from iTunes on your PC or Mac," said the company.
A Renovated Office Store
This week also marks the debut of the revamped Office Store, Microsoft's Web-based marketplace for Office apps.
The new Office Store features a streamlined home page, an improved free-text search tool and a ranking service that surfaces new and highly rated apps. There are also behind-the-scenes perks for app developers, the company announced in a statement
Microsoft said the upgrades include "faster onboarding of new apps." In October, the company plans to release "more interactive and frequently refreshed analytics tools so contributors can assess how their apps are faring in the Store."
Another potential boon for developers is the ability to publish listings in Microsoft's Pinpoint partner portal. In fiscal year 2014 (July 1, 2013 to June 30, 2014), the site attracted 6.3 million visitors and generated 1.2 million referrals, according to the company.
Office Store is also going global with the addition of Dutch, Italian and Russian language support. In October, Microsoft is adding Portuguese (Brazil) and Chinese (traditional and simplified) to the list. "With these new languages, we'll gain fully localized apps and storefronts for Belgium, the Netherlands, Italy, and Russia, with localized apps and storefronts for Brazil, China, Taiwan and Hong Kong SAR to follow soon after," the company said.
In addition to opening up new markets for developers, the expansion means that local coders can craft region-specific solutions.
One example is Dutch software maker Aia, which "has released a content-management app for SharePoint that enables users to rapidly compose proposals, contracts and other documents by easily inserting data from their SharePoint libraries into Aia's cloud-based templates—all within employers' own corporate guidelines," said Microsoft. Another is Informatic, whose free Russian Grammar Checker app for Excel, PowerPoint and Word graces the Office Store's Russian storefront.