Microsoft recently released a free Office Mobile app for iOS. This app allows the hordes of businesspeople who utilize the newest version of Microsoft Office to view important documents on their iOS devices, and users are able to install the application on up to five such devices, a limit which does not affect the user’s limit on Mac/PC installations. Users may view Microsoft Word, PowerPoint and Excel files with the app, as well as create new files. This app sounds wonderful at first glance, but there’s one major caveat: users must have an Office 365 subscription to utilize the service. Businesspeople using non-cloud versions of Microsoft Office, including the latest release, are unable to use the app unless they are willing to become a new subscriber.
Caveat aside, one must wonder how useful this app really is to those who can use it. People routinely use Office for hours at a time on a desktop environment, but Office was designed to be used on a PC, where the screen is large and text is easily visible, and input is second nature with a keyboard and mouse, and a slew of data manipulation tools facilitate number and data crunching. On a mobile device, documents are minimized to fit on a much smaller screen, meaning users must zoom in to make the text legible and must continually scroll left-to-right and down to read a single page. Users can also access the Office Mobile app on the larger iPad, but the size of the screen is still an issue.

Additional usage limitations include inability to add bullets, colors, and other important formatting options, and difficult document updating due to iOS devices relying on onscreen keyboards and finger-based gestures instead of mice, meaning document updating, and even simple copying and pasting, become much more difficult processes.

When sourcing, our main goal is to find quality products at competitive prices. While Office 365 is a great product in terms of reliability and build-out, the idea of putting it in an app for small-screen devices ruins its overall functionality.

It’s safe to say that tiny screens and vital documents are not a good match when important work is at stake. It will be interesting to see how many of the app’s downloaders become long-term users in the face of these crippling limitations.
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Sarah Tuchinsky

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  1. All interesting points, but I think this will largely be used for in-the-field document review. That said, there are more seasoned options within iTunes that gives readers a free cloud storage space for all their documents and requires no fees.

    It will be interesting to see how many users this thing gets.

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