Despite not being there, Microsoft made its presence known at Macworld|iWorld thanks to Office for iPad
Apple hasn't participated in CES for years, but its presence looms large over the show almost every year. Sometimes Apple's influence is overt, like the vast numbers of iPhone case makers on display. Other times it's more indirect, like the number of wearables makers at this year's show, all wanting to claim their piece of the market before Apple gets there. Similarly, Microsoft no longer exhibits at Macworld|iWorld, but made its presence felt this year in a very big way thanks to Office for iPad.
As the 2014 Macworld|iWorld show opened its expo hall doors for the first time, Microsoft's newly minted CEO Satya Nadella introduced Microsoft Office for iPad to a small invite-only gathering only a few blocks away. The software is available for free download from the App Store, though you'll have to subscribe to Microsoft's Office 365 service if you want to actually create or edit documents.
This isn't the first time you've been able to run Microsoft Office on the iPad after a fashion, if you count virtualization tools. There are Office equivalents like QuickOffice. And last October Apple began including its Office equivalent apps, Pages, Numbers and Keynote, for free, giving iPad users Office import and export capabilities. Even Microsoft's own Office Mobile for Office 365 - made for the iPhone - worked on the iPad too, albeit not as a universal app.
The iPad already has a huge presence in the enterprise and educational markets. Microsoft Office's presence on the platform doesn't legitimize it, but it does simplify things for a lot of people that depend on a native Office experience to get their work done.
Perhaps because of Macworld|iWorld's increased focus on Information Technology (IT) and its MacIT conference track, a lot of people who I spoke to at the show had strong opinions of Office for iPad. Some, like me, were skeptical that the subscription model Microsoft has employed to make Office fully usable on the iPad is worth the money. Some have concerns about being tied in to Microsoft's OneDrive cloud service. Others figure it's a shoe-in to be a huge hit, whatever the challenges. And many of us had downloaded the apps before the show closed on Thursday. I'm certain if Microsoft had been there, Office for iPad would have garnered best in show nods from many of the news outlets which do such things.
The bottom line: This is the first time since the iPad was introduced in 2010 users have had a native Office workflow. Whatever you think of Office on the iPad, this is a major tectonic shift for productivity software on the iPad. Most iPad owners and most corporate IT departments don't want to futz with "almost good enough" workflows. They want the real deal.
Our own Ally Kazmucha has put Office for iPad through its paces and has come away with a positive impression. How about you? Have you tried it out, and what do you think?