Microsoft Office is just what the iPad needs

The iPad needs help with mobile productivity, and Microsoft may be the savior to fill that void.

C'est la vie. Next, I moved on to testing out Microsoft Office 2010 Web apps. No luck there either. But, then I remembered that Microsoft just recently introduced a different Web-based version of Microsoft Office--Docs.com.

It turns out that Docs.com is also flaky on the iPad. The link is there to "Add a Doc", but when I try to add a Word doc it freezes the Safari browser up for a minute or two. When it is "working", I can click around in the menu bar, but tapping on the blank page does not launch the virtual keyboard, so there is no way to actually type text.

My experience with PowerPoint in Docs.com was similar to my experience with Word. I can add slides, change the format of the slides, add Smart Art, and change the color scheme of the Smart Art--but unfortunately tapping on text areas does not launch the virtual keyboard, so I couldn't actually enter text.

Ironically, like with the Google Docs spreadsheet, the one app that seems to work is Excel. Tapping on a cell does launch the virtual keyboard and it seems that the menu and formatting options are all functional.

So, as of today, there is no great solution. The iWork for iPad apps lack the features and functions that mobile business professionals need, and both Google Docs and Microsoft's Docs.com don't seem to play nice with the iPad--unless you only need to work with spreadsheets.

Here is the glimmer of hope, though. When I asked Microsoft if there are any plans to fix Docs.com so that it will work with the iPad I got the following response from Pat Kinsel, program manager at Microsoft FUSE Labs: "It is our goal for Docs to integrate seamlessly with the iPad.   However, given that the iPad launched late during our development cycle, we are just now able to focus our attention to a few outstanding issues. At present, the iPad works well for viewing documents. We are working on the ability to type/add text which we hope will be resolved shortly."

As far as I am concerned, this will be the ideal solution. If Docs.com works on the iPad, I can create, view, and edit documents using the iPad on native Microsoft Word, Microsoft Excel, and Microsoft PowerPoint apps that mirror the standards and conventions I am used to. Then, when I return to my desk I can simply click on "Open in Word" or "Open in Excel" and launch the file in the full Microsoft Office 2010 application if I happen to need any features or functions missing in Docs.com.

Microsoft did not provide any other estimate or timeline aside from "shortly". My version of shortly is next quarter. Hopefully Microsoft's version of shortly doesn't translate to FY2012 or something crazy.

Microsoft, I'll be waiting.

You can follow Tony on his Facebook page, or contact him by email at tony_bradley@pcworld.com. He also tweets as @Tony_BradleyPCW.

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Tony Bradley

PC World (US online)
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