If you love your iPad, yet harbor a degree of angst that Microsoft Office programs are not yet available on the device, you are not alone. Microsoft Suite is of course not the only productivity suite to choose from, but it is still pervasively popular.
Android mobile device users have had a similar experience.
Defying the Stars? Microsoft's Early 2012 'Office 15' Announcement
The announcement certainly raised many iOS and users' hopes that Apple and Microsoft's star-crossed productivity solutions would become less tangled. Code-named 'Office 15', the beta was rumored to include a product similar to OneNote in addition to the latest versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and Outlook.
The Twist: Office 2013 Consumer Release Announced July 2012
On July 16, 2012, however, Microsoft announced Office 13, which has taken the place of the 'Office 15' referenced by PJ Hough, the CVP of Development for Microsoft Office Division, when he wrote in his blog, ". . .I can tell you Office 15 is the most ambitious undertaking yet for the Office Division. With Office 15, for the first time ever, we will simultaneously update our cloud services, servers, and mobile and PC clients for Office, Office 365, Exchange, SharePoint, Lync, Project, and Visio."
As of the Office 13 announcement, iOS and Android compatibility for Microsoft Office is once again a matter of anticipation. As of early November 2012, however, the rumors have become increasingly convincing that we may see Microsoft Office Apps for Android and iOS in Early 2013.
So...does this mean you have to wait to use your device for tasks traditionally relegated to Microsoft Suite? Well, yes and sort-of. Until another solution is hopefully unveiled, you have two conceptual options, each opening up quite a few product alternatives.
Option #1: A Rose By Any Other Name...
May smell as sweet. For example, utilizing a non-Microsoft suite that is installed right on your iPad, such as iWork or Quickoffice Pro, will give you a productivity experience with the functionality of Microsoft Office, if not the familiarity. Icons will look different and menus will be organized differently. One more compromise: PC- or Mac-originated documents created in Word will tend to be shoddily formatted when opened in your non-Microsoft program.
Option #2: Is There No Pity Sitting in the Clouds?
There wasn't for Romeo, but there might be for you and your beloved iOS or Android device. Consider accessing cloned Microsoft products remotely or 'on the cloud'. By now, you have likely heard the term cloud computing, referring to accessing, creating, editing, and storing documents on internet repositories, rather than on your computer. (Think: bank or credit union, versus that piggy bank at home).
This opens up myriad clone solutions ranging from minimalistic to full versions of Microsoft Suite--like a secret, ideological marriage between feuding clans.
- Office 365 - Microsoft's Current Cloud Product: For official Microsoft apps with maximum fidelity to traditional Microsoft Suites, yes, you must wait. In the interim, you could download Microsoft's currently available Office 365 apps which offer very lite versions of Word, PowerPoint, Excel, and OneNote. The simplicity may work for your needs.
- OnLive or CloudOn - Microsoft Programs Hosted by Non-Microsoft Vendors: If you have tasks requiring longer hang-time in Word, Excel, PowerPoint or Outlook, consider alternatives from companies such as Palo Alto's OnLive, Inc. For "free", you can create a sign-in account and access a degree of Windows 7 desktop functionality including full Windows versions of Word, Excel and PowerPoint. The cost caveat is, document storage will be a minimal 2 gigabytes. More will cost you. For $10 a month you can get a Pro account with 50GM of storage. A company named CloudOn actually beat OnLive to the punch for this type of solution. Though offering a more complete Windows 7 desktop, it includes a more pared-down version of Word, Excel, and PowerPoint than OnLive. CloudOn has remained a choice for those preferring the additional feature of compatibility with Dropbox, which allows you to create a sign in for a file transfer account.
- LogMeIn - Link to Your Own PC: Using an app such as the popular LogMeIn allows you to remotely access your PC's desktop from your device. LogMeIn has recently created a free version of its previous LogMeIn Ignition product. This route can get a little tricky as it involves coordination of hookups, logins, settings, and simply leaving your computer on at home all the time in case you need to access it remotely.
- Google Docs: Google Docs: might be a good solution that is comparable to using the non-Microsoft programs of Option 1-only this is on the cloud. So far, Google Docs fans have not been entirely enthusiastic about the product translation to iPad's interface. Many professionals have used Google Docs on their PC or Mac for real-time collaboration (where data is immediately, continually saved among all parties). The trouble with Google Docs for iPad is, rather than information syncing automatically, the Refresh button must be pushed periodically by each collaborator-who might forget. Some decide that is a tragic ending waiting to happen.
The Remote Experience
Keep in mind that documents created, edited, and stored on the cloud can be downloaded to your mobile device, Mac, or PC. You can also have documents sync, in case you ever do work on your downloaded documents 'outside the cloud'.
A couple common complaints from iPad users already operating within cloud productivity solutions:
First, iPad's virtual keyboard is still laborious for editing long documents. Furthermore, because you are accessing a Microsoft product through these solutions, a separate virtual Windows keyboard will appear rather than your iPad's keyboard and you cannot use a mouse to navigate. An iPad-compatible wireless keyboard is a good option, but it will not have Windows key commands. All this means you will be navigating alternately between the wireless keyboard and your iPad's touch screen.
Another problem--inaccessibility when not connected to the internet. Be aware that a download speed of at least 1 megabit per second must be available for many cloud computing sites (not great for travelers or wi-fi hot spot users). Some have reported problems with peak time-too much heavy traffic on cloud servers might rain on your project!
I Must Hence to Wait
No one really likes to wait. Hopefully the idiosyncrasies Microsoft Office Suite fans tolerate in the meantime will sweeten the disappointment of waiting.
Please post or email me with your thoughts and questions.