Office for iPad - has to work offline as well


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Microsoft might have an easy way to make Office for iPad, but it would be a trick not a solution.

Over at ZDnet, there’s a good discussion about why an ‘Office for iPad’ isn’t feasible and what Microsoft may be planning instead.

Despite ( or because of) Microsoft’s denials it’s clear that the company is working on something to put ‘Office like’ features on the iPad.

iPad’s have very limited resources, particularly memory which tops out at 1GB for the iPad 3. Office 2010 will run in 1GB of RAM but very slowly even with a faster processor that a Windows computer has.

There are word-processors etc for iPad – like Apple’s Pages, Numbers and Keynote but none of those has the abilities we’ve come to expect from Microsoft Office.

The solution may be to offer a cloud service, some kind of virtualized or remote access system where the iPad acts as the mere ‘face and hands’ for a more powerful computer running in a server farm.

Anyone who has used Remote Access Desktop in Windows (which we recommend for running Outlook on multiple computers) or the Live Mesh remote access feature will understand the concept.

It’s an appealing idea, especially because Microsoft could deploy this on almost any platform for a fraction of the cost for re-writing Office software. You could get this ‘Office in the cloud’ running on iPad, Android, Linux, you name it.

The service could well be bundled into Office 365 further pushing Microsoft’s long time agenda of moving customers to a subscription based system rather than one-off sales of Office software.

Microsoft has enough market power to negotiate around the hefty 30% take that Apple usually takes on app sales as well as any details of the usual iOS application rules that Microsoft would like to bypass. Apple would like to have a full-fledged Office suite on the iPad to boost sales so Microsoft would not even have to wield a big stick.

Not so fast ….

The unstated problem with this approach is that it assumes a reliable Internet connection – something that computer users, especially iPad users, don’t always have.

It’s easy when you’re living in a big modern city with access to the latest technology and funds to afford it. But away from the ‘big smoke’ Internet access isn’t so easy. The most obvious example is travelling by plane – only a few planes have onboard wifi and even those are expensive.

iPad’s are great for people on the move, they are a common sight in the popular travel sites of the world. Any Office for iPad solution has to work offline as well as online.

If Microsoft goes this route they know it’s only an interim measure. They’ll push it hard and loud while madly avoiding all mention of the need for constant Internet access.

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