Office for iOS: Apple and Microsoft join up

New app allows Office 365 subscribers to edit Word, PowerPoint and Excel documents on iPhones

Microsoft have released an official app for iPhones allowing users to browse and edit documents from Word, Excel and PowerPoint. The app is available to Office 365 subscribers – a web based platform that allows access to Office applications via the cloud.

The new app might suggest a closer collaboration between Microsoft and Apple, especially following the slightly hidden announcement at WWDC that the default search engine for Siri will be Bing, not Google.

Although the introduction of Office capabilities to iPhones will hopefully encourage more users to sign up for Office 365 (Microsoft’s best package costs £10.10 a month) Apple will also benefit – taking a cut on any subscriptions purchased directly from the iPhone.

Neither company has specified how much this cut will amount to, but if the deal was the same as Apple’s percentage for iTunes purchases then the iPhone makers would take home 30%.

The app offers a necessarily basic approach to document editing, with functions stripped down to match the screen real estate of the iPhone.

PowerPoint presentations cannot be created on the app, but both Excel and Word documents can. Microsoft say that files will “look like the originals”, with all rich media content such as pictures, animations, charts, and SmartArt unchanged when viewed on the mobile.

As with Office 365 files are stored in the cloud via SkyDrive, and are then synced across devices. Changes made to documents on your phone will then appear wherever the files are accessed and files will automatically load from the point you stopped reading on whichever device.

The app also works in conjunction with email attachments, meaning that any files sent from the iPhone’s email apps will open up ready for editing. And although files are stored in the cloud, they are cached locally and can be accessed by users without an internet connection.

Subscribers to Office 365 will get the app to use on up to five iPhones for free, although the service is currently only available in the US. Microsoft have confirmed that they will continue to roll out the service across 136 markets in 29 different languages in the coming days.

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