Office on the iPad is better but still not good enough

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer is fooling himself when saying iOS version of Office isn't needed, thanks to Office Web Apps

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Office Web Apps lags behind native iOS apps and even some cloud apps
It's pretty clear that having a native version would be a much better idea, so you can work speedily, access native functions such as printing and files, and perhaps get more capabilities. Apple's iWork suite (Pages, Keynote, and Numbers) and Google's Quickoffice offer much more capabilities than Office Web Apps does, for example, and are much better suited to be your iPad editors for Office documents. Not only do they work regardless of your online status, they have user interfaces better suited for iOS (such as contextal onscreen keyboards and function palettes), integrate more with native capabiities, and offer more features -- though less than Office on a PC or Mac.

Even as a Web app, Office Web Apps could be better. For example, the CloudOn service that runs Office on Windows Server and provides access via an iPad app offers more editing capabilities (including tracked changes in Word), saves your state if disconnected, and accesses files directly from Dropbox, Box, Google Drive, and SkyDrive. However, it does not support printing nor access to your iPad's local images.

But Office Web Apps is light-years ahead of the basic editing capabilities in Google Drive, the cloud-based storage sevice whose mobile editing capabilities Google recently updated from unusable to basic. Google has a very long way to go to make Web-based document editing viable on tablets. It's a good thing that last year it bought Quickoffice, the best iPad and Android office productivity app for Word and Excel files.

When all is said and done, Office Web Apps is fine for pinch-hitting work -- and a big improvement over its last version. But in the reality of Web apps, CloudOn is better and free. The leading native iOS office apps Quickoffice and iWork are much better all around.

Office Web Apps still doesn't work on Android
If you have an Android tablet, don't waste your time trying to use Office Web Apps. It won't work. I tested it on Android 4.1.2 "Jelly Bean" running the stock Android Internet browser on a Samung Galaxy Note 10.1 and on Android 4.2.1 "Jelly Bean" running the Android Chrome browser on a Google Nexus 10. Although the main Office Web Apps page loads, documents often do not load properly; even when they do, the editing controls don't appear and selecting text or cells doesn't bring up any formatting options or show cell formulas.

Clearly, Microsoft thinks even less of Android than it does of iOS.

Microsoft is poised to make Office a has-been like it did Windows
Microsoft may believe that Office Web Apps is good enough for iOS, but it's wrong -- just as it's been wrong so many times when it comes to the new world of mobile "post-PC" computing. By the time it figures that out, I believe Quickoffice and iWork will have cemented their positions as the premier mobile office suites, leaving Office as an also-ran in mobile just as Microsoft let happen with Windows.

This article, "Office on the iPad is better but still not good enough," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Read more of Galen Gruman's Mobile Edge blog and follow the latest developments in mobile technology at InfoWorld.com. Follow Galen's mobile musings on Twitter at MobileGalen. For the latest business technology news, follow InfoWorld.com on Twitter.

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