Bad Idea of the Week: a $99 Microsoft Office App for the iPhone

Bad Idea of the Week: a $99 Microsoft Office App for the iPhone.


All the more reason for an app that’s been designed for actual uses of the iPad and who want to work with others, not be worked over by the machine. I speak, of course, of UX Write. See the blog.

3 comments so far

  1. Peter Kelly on

    I had a look at the app this morning. I think it’s a fair bet to say I’m probably the only person who’s really happy about what they’ve done. It’s long been a concern of mine about what Microsoft are going to do in this area because obviously it would be a pretty huge challenge to compete against them if they ported the full functionality of Office to iOS, as as they did with Windows RT.

    First of all, I think the fact they’ve released only for the iPhone (not iPad) says quite a lot. I can’t imagine what the rationale behind that was. The iPad is tremendously better than the iPhone for document editing, and support for the latter in UX Write was really only an afterthought; the iPad is really my primary target due to the screen size.

    I had to use someone else’s phone to try it out (long story; my account is on the Australian store, and Office is only available in the US store currently – and even though I’m *in* the US right now I couldn’t install the app, despite having a paid Office 365 subscription).

    I can’t comment on Excel or Powerpoint; I only looked at Word, as that’s what is relevant to me.

    Basically the only editing features it has are text entry, simple direct formatting (bold/italic/underline/colour/font etc) and commenting. Text selection is awkward and doesn’t follow the standard iOS conventions. I could not find any way to insert images or tables, apply styles, create or modify styles, insert a table of contents (or even update an existing one), adjust table dimensions, add cross-references, or anything else. It’s basically got less functionality than Wordpad had back in the Windows 95 days. And, of course, it only syncs with Skydrive. It does have a reasonably nice document outline feature, but it’s only possible to view that within the app; it can’t be modified.

    As far as I’m concerned (and yes I am of course very biased ;), the only thing it has going for it is that it’s called Office and that it’s published by Microsoft. Sadly, that alone will probably be enough to convince quite a large number of people to use it. But if any other company had published an app with exactly the same functionality, nobody would pay the slightest attention to it.

    So while I was obviously concerned when I saw the news this morning, it turns out I still have a viable business. Everyone I’ve shown UX Write to here at WWDC (both inside and outside of Apple) has loved it, which has been really encouraging. If this release is representative of what Microsoft are going to be doing on the platform, I think that myself and other developers are going to be perfectly happy moving iOS forward as a content creation platform without them.

    I’ve been fortunate to meet with a number of great people here who are doing some amazing stuff with the platform – and there’s some real innovation that’s happening within the Apple development community. I’m also really excited about some of the WebKit improvements coming up in iOS 7 (the details of which I can’t talk about yet); these are really going to lay a solid foundation for the future of open standards-based documents, and in a manner that’s fully compatible with the web.

  2. Gary Bloom on

    The only explanation I can think of for Office on the iPhone, only, is so the millions of PC Office users who use iPhones, but not iPads, will be comfortable with a PC/iPhone combination.That they’ll be less likely to experiment with the iPad as a replacement for their PCs. While iPhone Office users can do only a bit of editing, they can carry the docs with them in their pockets or purses — handy for printing or sending an attachment, if little else. In short, MS sees that solution as the best way to protect Windows. Still, you’d think they’d notice that cloud apps solve the same problem.

  3. Louis Suárez-Potts on

    I suppose I think it a good idea to have an iPad able to edit MS Office (and ODF—does it do that?) docs. But I think it a bad idea to link it to Office 365 and to make it such a poorly done application, except in the case of the Word analogue.

    For this and other reasons, I prefer to use UX Write. It reads/writes .docx. But does not require any obligation to MS Office.

    And, it’s better done. Faster—native—more elegant, and much, much cheaper: 25 USD (I think), and no obligation to MS Office.

    As to X on an iPhone. Well… I have iWorks for my iPhone. Have I actually ever used it, beyond viewing texts? not really. I can imagine–not hard–an occasion when I could use my iPhone for presentations, and use my iPhone Keynote. And I have taken notes, but mostly because I felt obligated to do so, having bought the apps.

    Really, the only tool I’ve found that works as it ought, and is practical and also able to work with other technology, is UX Write. I’m now persuading–trying, at any rate–Peter to adopt, also, ODF. My simple goal: to get this used by billions.


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