After months of leaks and rumors, Office is finally available for Apple iOS. But don't expect to purchase it from Apple's iTunes app store.
Microsoft announced June 14 that it released an Office Mobile app. And as its listing in the iTunes app store states, only iPhone users—and Office 365 subscribers at that—will get an Office experience on iOS.
"Today, we're releasing Office Mobile for iPhone available at no extra charge from the Apple App Store for Office 365 Home Premium and Office 365 ProPlus subscribers," Julia White, a general manager for Microsoft's Office division, wrote in a company blog post.
The move not only steers iPhone-toting Office users toward Microsoft's cloud-enabled productivity suite, it sidesteps Apple's revenue share program for iOS apps, albeit somewhat belatedly. Rumors of Office software on iOS have circulated for months.
Late last year, the Office app was spotted running on iOS and mentions of it briefly surfaced on Microsoft's French support site. The company's Czech subsidiary helped fuel the buzz when product manager Petr Bobek was quoted by the press as saying that Office apps were set to make an appearance in early 2013.
In February, Office's future on iOS was cast into doubt when Apple blocked a critical SkyDrive app update from Microsoft. SkyDrive is Microsoft's cloud storage service, which offers paid subscribers access to more capacity than is included with the free plan (7GB).
Microsoft reportedly balked at its rival's revenue share terms. At issue was Apple's 30 percent cut of SkyDrive subscription fees, which Microsoft feared Apple could collect in perpetuity even if users switched away from iOS. Offering an Office app on iTunes—a potentially big moneymaker for Microsoft—would also divert a sizable amount of revenue into Apple's coffers.
Microsoft's appears to have averted a repeat of that situation by making its app work only for current Office 365 subscribers.
The app allows users to view, edit and save Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint files. "Because Office Mobile is from Microsoft, your formatting and layout remain intact when viewing, editing or adding comments, thanks to support for charts, animations, SmartArt graphics and shapes," wrote White.
Stressing the app's ability to deliver a consistent Office experience across platforms, White added that when "you return to your PC or Mac, your document looks like it should."
Collaboration and sharing are also key features. "When working with others, you can review comments in Word and Excel documents on your phone and add your own. When you're done, you can save directly to SkyDrive or SkyDrive Pro or just send as an email attachment," White wrote.
What about the iPad? For now, the company is advising owners of Apple's tablet to point their browsers to Office Web Apps.
"We built Office Mobile for iPhone to ensure a great Office experience when using a small screen device, similar to Office Mobile for Windows Phone. If you have an iPad, we recommend using Office Web Apps that provide the best Office experience on a tablet," blogged Pat Fox, senior director of product marketing for Microsoft Office.