If you and your business already use Microsoft Office (and most of you do) and also own an iPad (and many of you do, according to our server traffic statistics), the apps you’ve been waiting for so long are finally here. Microsoft has finally released its long-rumored Office for iPad apps. The website Engadget has an early, but greatly detailed, overnight review of the apps (unlike the desktop productivity suite, the iPad version of PowerPoint, Excel and Word are separate free apps) and makes the following conclusion:

“Office for iPad is elegantly designed, with a robust feature set and intuitive layout. It’s great for people who already have an Office 365 subscription, and it’s also one of the only mobile office suites to work with Microsoft’s OneDrive service. For everyone else, though, it’s an impractical choice — especially when competing apps like Apple’s iWork suite can be had for free.”

While we agree with most of Engadget’s review, we think that conclusion misses an important “use case” that a lot of small business sales people find themselves in constantly.

How to use you iPad to display that PowerPoint presentation to 2 or 2,000 people

Microsoft has previously tried to compete with the iPad by creating its own  Surface brand of tablets, leaving Office users who are iPad owners with a wide-assortment of third-party work-arounds for tasks such as creating a PowerPoint presentation that can be seamlessly used on a Windows desktop and an iPad. (Let us stress again: There is an entire cottage industry of apps that provide work-arounds.) This marks the arrival of an “official” way to create, collaborate on and share a PowerPoint presentation using a start-to-finish Microsoft branded software product.

A typical example of where the new Office iPad app will solve a problem such users face is in sales or training situations where PowerPoint is used to share the same presentation with audiences of various sizes. For sharing with one or two people, the iPad version works. For larger groups, a projected version from the iPad or laptop works. We are guessing that such users, who have been creating double-versions of presentations for the past three years, are downloading the PowerPoint app this morning.

For many sales people, the ability to have this flexibility puts iPad PowerPoint in the “killer app” category.

Viewing is free, editing requires an Office 365 account

If you just want to display Excel, Word or Powerpoint files on an iPad, all you need to do is download the free apps and use them in a read-only mode. Editing, including collaborating with others, requires a subscription to Microsoft’s cloud-based service called Office 365 (see below).

Check the specs and pricing

Because Microsoft markets its products to consumers, small businesses, students and large enterprises, it faces a challenge in trying to brand and price software for different types of buyers that are essentially the same products and services bundled with various bells and whistles.

If you want to create and edit Office files, you’ll need the free apps, AND a one of various Office 365 (annual subscription, cloud-based) plans. While there is a home version and a student version, Microsoft has bundled together a package of software and services it has branded “Office 365 Small Business Premium” that is priced on a per-employee basis.

Are you an Office user? How will you use the iPad versions of PowerPoint, Excel and Word? (Use comments below to share your ideas.)

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