7 Gotchas of Microsoft 'Office for iPad'

1. Office For iPad (Not)

Users of iPads the world over are reveling over "Office for iPad," the release last week of Microsoft's productivity suite for Apple's tablet platform. But, as the CRN Test Center discovered, there's no actual product by that name. Gotcha No. 1 is that there's nothing called "Office for iPad" in the Apple App Store. Instead, Redmond released three separate new apps called Word for iPad, Excel for iPad and PowerPoint for iPad. A minor point, perhaps, but some gotchas could impact the bottom line.

2. SKU Madness

Microsoft loves to SKU people, and the name-game might confuse IT departments when planning their deployment projects. The new iPad apps are easy enough to find when searching in iTunes, but a Google search for "Office for iPad itunes.com" will point to Microsoft Office Mobile, a separate product that requires one of five "qualifying" Office 365 subscription plans to do anything other than view files. Once the three new apps are correctly identified in iTunes, they too come with significant restrictions, and it's important to know what they are.

3. $99 Ain't Free

When it comes to editing Office documents using an app built by Microsoft, there's still no such thing as a free lunch. Someone who doesn't already have an Office 365 subscription can download Word for iPad for free and view Word documents until the cows come home. But for the privilege of creating or editing one, the App Store needs to ring up $99.99 per year for Office 365 Home purchased from within the app. That license allows the app to be installed and "used on an unlimited number of iPad devices" subject to terms of Office Consumer Subscriptions.

4. Know The Agreement

There are cheaper ways of licensing "Office for iPad" than forking over $100, but beware; some may run afoul of that software user license agreement that no one reads. For most, the key takeaway from the "Office for iPad" license agreement (so titled despite no like-named product) is that current Office 365 subscribers "with mobile device rights" may "use and install copies of the application on iPad devices you own or control." Fair enough, since the cost of an Office 365 subscription starts at $5 per month, per user.

5. Student Discount

Students can get the Office 365 University subscription for four years for $79.99, or about $20 a year. That license permits installation on two Windows or Mac computers and two tablets. While this is the cheapest honest way to go, it might present enforcement challenges on the college campus. A slightly more generous licensing agreement comes with the Office 365 Education A3, which permits installation on as many as five computers and editing on unlimited tablets for $30 a year.

6. Multiple Logouts

When signing into Word for iPad for the first time using our Office 365 account, we were happy to discover that we didn't have to perform similar sign-ins when initially launching the iPad versions of Excel and PowerPoint. Other direction, not so much. Signing out of one app doesn't automatically sign out of the others. Fine for personal scenarios, but this is a security disaster for the enterprise. Handing off an iPad that's logged into someone else's OneDrive account is a serious gotcha, and there's no timeout setting. This will be a deal killer for many companies.

7. No Printing

That's right folks, Microsoft's new iPad apps lack the ability to output any of that beautiful content to a printer. So even with an Office 365 account, third-party printing solutions are the only way. We shouldn't be surprised; lots of apps lack the ability to print directly. That's why Apple invented AirPrint, which provides a wireless printing framework for any iOS app that bothers to connect with it. Unfortunately, Microsoft didn't bother.