Office for iPad Dominates Apple App Store

Is Microsoft finally making the right moves in mobile? The company racks up millions of downloads after the release of native Office apps for Apple's market-moving tablet.


iPad owners have propelled Microsoft to the top of the charts on the rival Apple App Store.

A week after the March 27 launch of Office for iPad, the company announced that the new apps had amassed millions of downloads. On April 3, the company tweeted, "More than 12 million downloads of Word, Excel, PPT [PowerPoint] & OneNote for #iPad from the @AppStore." The apps continue to do well as they enter their second week of availability.

As of this writing, Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint for iPad firmly occupy the top three spots in the free app category at Apple's App Store. Office for iPad apps are available for free but require an Office 365 subscription to unlock its full functionality, including document editing.

Reviews are decidedly mixed, however. On one hand, many users laud the apps' desktop-like capabilities, spritely performance and touch-friendly features. (Julia White, general manager of Microsoft Office, said during a March 27 press event that the apps deliver "all the satisfying features that you expect in Office.")

Yet many users deducted points for Microsoft's approach to pricing.

Office 365 plans, with apps for up to five PCs or Macs and five tablets, start at $9.99 per month or $99.99 per year. It's a sticking point for several users that gave the apps low scores. Currently, the average ratings for Word, Excel and PowerPoint for Office apps hover around three to three-and-a-half stars (out of five).

In a blog post, Eric Wilfrid, a director of program management on the Office for iPad engineering team and a former member of the Office for Mac (MacBU) team, suggested that Microsoft may be revisiting its approach to pricing in the future. For the time being, the way users pay for "the Office 365 service is inseparable from the service experience itself," he said in a blog post.

He added that Microsoft had "heard a lot of feedback in the app store about unlocking full Office for iPad functionality solely through an Office 365 subscription, and we've especially heard feedback about the subscription we offer in the apps." In the meantime, his group shared some information on the long-awaited new version of Office for Mac.

In an April 8 Reddit AMA (ask me anything) session, Erik Schwiebert, an Office for Mac software engineer, revealed how Microsoft's work on the iPad apps is now helping bring the Mac version closer to release. "The code for Office for iPad and Office for Mac is shared, as the development platforms for both are very similar," he wrote.

"The iPad work required us to create an all-new UI and to redesign the interface between UI and the internal logic," added Schwiebert. "That work actually helps us with de-Carbonizing Office for the Mac, instead of delaying or hindering it. We're able to create new Cocoa UI on the Mac and tie it into the new logic interface now."

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez is a contributor to eWEEK and the IT Business Edge Network, the network for technology professionals. Previously, he served as a managing editor for the network of...