The launch announcements about Microsoft Office 2013 and the Surface tablet pretty much squelches any hope of a Microsoft Office for the iPad (at least for now). When I talk about Microsoft Office 2013 in this post, I'm talking about its Small Business Premium or Enterprise edition subscription-based goodness, which includes hosted versions of SharePoint, Exchange, and Lync (AKA Office 365). The cloud has become a major element of Microsoft Office 2013, and so it has the potential to be a very iPad-friendly, regardless of Microsoft's mobile strategies.
Here are some options to get Microsoft Office 2013 and the iPad to play nice together.
Office Web AppsI touched upon using Office Web Apps in my post about implementing the data less iPad, and it's very much an option for getting your iPad to play nice with Office 2013, especially since Office 2013 uses SkyDrive by default for storing your Office documents. Not every corporate enterprise is going to deploy Office Web Apps, but those with a large iPad user community should consider installing it as part of their Office 2013 rollout. Figure A shows an example of the Word 2013 Web App open in mobile Safari on a 3rd generation iPad. Figure A
The Word Web App on a 3rd generation iPad.
The next version of Office Web Apps does have touch support. I've been testing the touch support, and Microsoft is definitely making Office Web Apps iPad-friendly, especially with pinch and zoom. Ultimately, it's still a cut down version of Microsoft Office, but it includes the necessary features to edit and review documents. I'm not too sure I would use Office Web Apps for anything more than that.
(The New) Office 365
The Small Business and Enterprise versions of Office 2013 include an updated version of Office 365, their hosted version of SharePoint, Exchange, and Lync, which now supports some browser access from mobile Safari. I expect app developers like Moprise and Colligo will release Office 2013-centric versions of their SharePoint client apps. However, it's about time that Microsoft provides at least some level of native iPad access to SharePoint and other Office 365 components.The iPad native support in the new version of Office 365 (see Figure B) feels very limited when you put direct browser access up against an iPad SharePoint client app like Coaxion or Colligo Briefcase Pro, but at least there's some progress. Figure B
Office 365 going native on the iPad.
OneNote for iOSYou still have access to OneNote from your iPad using the OneNote for iPad app. It's a solid app, and the question remains if we'll see an update to the OneNote iOS apps around the time of the OneNote 2013 launch. I've been running the Office 2013 consumer preview for a while now without any issues accessing the OneNote data I already had in the cloud (Figure C). Figure C
OneNote in the cloud.
When Office 2013 launches, it would be nice to get access to embedded files in OneNote pages just as you can in the desktop version. That would certainly help Microsoft Office 2013 and the iPad play nice together.
Exchange Online and Office Web Access (OWA)
Exchange Online and OWA are available in the Small Business and Enterprise versions of Office 2013. These versions include full support for the iPad for corporate users with an authorized account. I wasn't able to access OWA from mobile Safari, even though I can access Outlook.com (Microsoft's new free email service).
Lync for iPadCurrently, the Lync for iPad app (Figure D) provides limited access to Lync Online. iPad users get capabilities like Presence, Chat, and online meetings. It's not yet a real mobile-to-mobile conferencing solution, but it provides mobile and remote users access to corporate online meetings from their iPad. However, it's disappointing that the app still doesn't allow video conferencing using the iPad's front facing camera. Figure D
Microsoft Lync for the iPad.
Can they play nice together?
While I'm not expecting a pure play solution to get the iPad and Office 2013 to play nice together, it took me writing this post to realize the lack of SkyDrive (the default file storage in Office 2013) support in current versions of iPad Office apps. I hope that this is something that will change in future releases of Documents To Go, Quickoffice Pro HD, and others as Office 2013 deployments reach critical mass.
Office 2013 and the iPad: Are they friends?
A full iOS strategy for Microsoft Office 2013 may never happen due to Microsoft's Surface tablets launch, but Office 2013 does have a few iPad options. The current native Microsoft iOS app and iPad-native options available give definitely some space for third-party apps to help Microsoft Office 2013 and the iPad get along.
Will Kelly is a technical and marketing communications writer based in the Washington, DC area. He has written about SMB technology, data center management, project management applications, mobile computing, Microsoft Office, and productivity applications for online and print technology publications. You can reach Will at email@example.com.