Microsoft Office for iOS has been swirling around the rumor mill for a while now, and it sounds as if we are finally getting some real details about the product. While there is still not a lot of information being confirmed by Microsoft, it seems as if they will be releasing what amounts to a Microsoft Office 365 client rather than a full version of the office suite.
Microsoft Office 365 is Microsoft's cloud-powered version of the Office suite. The free app offered by Microsoft will allow Office documents to be opened in read-only mode, but to do any editing, users will need to purchase a monthly subscription. The subscription service starts at $8.33 for home users and allows Office 365 to be used on up to five devices. There's no word on if the app will have a true, localized version of Office allowing you to edit documents while offline or if it will simply be a portal to the web version, or if a full version of the office suite might be coming to the App Store at a later date.
The subscription model may be attractive to desktop users who are routinely asked to pay for upgrades every 2-3 years, but it might not pan out well on iOS and Android platforms where upgrades tend to be free. The $8.33 monthly subscription will quickly outpace the cost of Pages, Numbers and Keynote for the iPad, which run $9.99 each. These apps might not have all of the features needed for some, but many people will find them perfect for their needs.
And Microsoft Office for iOS and Android may present another dilemma for users if Microsoft restricts them to limited editing of documents compared to Microsoft Surface tablets. While it might seem to be a good ploy to urge people onto Surface, it's also a good way to show people the exit, a dangerous gamble when free desktop alternatives like Google Docs and OpenOffice exist and cheaper alternatives are available in the App Store.