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Microsoft, At Last, Offers Its Office Apps For Apple's iPhone

The new Office Mobile for iPhone is available free to Office 365 subscribers, potentially providing a boost for the cloud application suite. But Microsoft isn't offering a version specifically for the iPad.

The new Office Mobile for iPhone is available free to Office 365 Home Premium and Office 365 ProPlus subscribers. Office 365, launched two years ago, is the cloud version of the Microsoft Office application suite.

The move is something of a gamble for Microsoft, which has struggled to gain traction in the tablet computer and smartphone markets against Apple and products running Google's Android mobile operating system. While making Office available for the iPhone will expand the potential market for the application suite, it could give consumers another reason to choose the iPhone over Windows-based smartphones.

[Related: Report: Apple Exploring Larger iPhones, Bigger Screens ]

Microsoft partners who offer Office 365 say making it available for the iPhone should improve demand for the cloud applications.

"We saw the announcement with great interest," said Chris Hertz, CEO of New Signature, a Washington, D.C.-based Microsoft partner, in an email. He called the move a "huge win for Microsoft partners and Microsoft customers."

"This is further demonstration that Microsoft is one of the most progressive software companies in relation to open standards interoperability," he said. "In the age of consumerization of IT and BYOD, this move dramatically increases the value of an Office 365 subscription to CIOs everywhere looking to deliver greater productivity anywhere, anytime. I have no doubt this announcement will increase the volume and velocity of Office 365 adoption, which will in turn increase service opportunities for New Signature and all other Microsoft partners."

Office Mobile for iPhone is similar to the Office Mobile for Windows Phone applications that Microsoft ships with every Windows-based handset. Both the Windows and iPhone versions of the application set are optimized for smartphones' small screens.

Microsoft, however, made no announcement about offering a version of Office optimized for the Apple iPad tablet, even though that device runs on the same iOS operating system as the iPhone. In the past Microsoft executives have said there is no need for an iPad-specific version of Office because the tablet computer has a full browser that can access Office Web Apps, the Web-based version of the application suite, through Microsoft's SkyDrive cloud service.

"We built Office Mobile for iPhone to ensure a great Office experience when using a small-screen device, similar to Office Mobile on Windows Phone," a Microsoft spokesperson wrote in an email. "If you have an iPad, we recommend using Office Web Apps which provide the best Office experience on a tablet. We have made lots of enhancements to Office Web Apps including an improved touch experience for tablet users."

The mobile applications allow users to access, view and edit Word, Excel and PowerPoint documents on their iPhone. The mobile applications preserve the content, formatting and layout of the documents so they look the same when viewed and edited on desktop PCs and Macs.

The Office Mobile for iPhone application is available from the Apple App Store, Microsoft said.


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