Should Office for iPad be free?


It will be interesting to see what Microsoft’s pricing strategy is when they release Office on the iPad soon. Already talk of the release has positively affected their share price, so it’s all down to their release strategy – will they charge for it, will they require an Office 365 subscription, or will it perhaps, be free?

I’m dreading Microsoft forcing users into having an Office 365, not because I’m against a subscription (I personally have tons of monthly subscriptions for all the tools I use), but rather because it will significantly decrease the appeal down to already existing Office 365 users. Microsoft can either see the iPad release as:

  • A way to drive Microsoft usage, OR
  • A way to drive Office 365 signups

I’m  hoping it is the former, and with that in mind I hope they simply make Office for iPad (and iPhone) apps free. In doing so, they have everything to gain, and only a little to lose.

As with their OneNote release, the appeal is in having all devices covered (so I’m hoping that there’s an Office for Android release not too far behind the iOS release). Microsoft has lagged for so long in providing cross-device coverage, so it’s important that their Office for iPad release gets as much traction as possible. I’m hoping it hits the Top 10 AppStore charts early and stays there. Having Microsoft in there constantly will be a powerful confidence builder:

AppStore Productivity

And since each of the apps will likely be separate, wouldn’t it be good to see OneNote, Word, Excel and PowerPoint apps regularly crowding out the top charts.

To achieve that, it’s probably going to have to be free, or a minimal one-time charge. Requiring an Office 365 subscription will be an adoption killer. And especially if the Office 365 subscription has device count limits (but that is unclear at this stage).

The benefits of a free release will be significant though – widespread adoption will drive people to using OneDrive (ie actually using it, instead of just having a dormant account), and from there greater confidence about Microsoft’s desktop apps.

As Microsoft is well aware, people in the Android and Apple ecosystems are actively looking for alternatives to Office, due in large part to the lack of device coverage. As the share price boost shows, there’s a lot of opportunity if they get this right. I hope they don’t blow it.

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By Craig Bailey