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Microsoft launches iPad-optimized Office app

Microsoft has pushed out a version of its Office app made with iPads in mind. The app combines Word, Excel and PowerPoint into a single offering and has some new features.

Microsoft has released a version of its Office app optimized for the iPad, benefiting tablet owners who previously had to use the software's iPhone version.

The app, now available in the Apple App Store, combines Word, Excel and PowerPoint into one package. The app is free, but workers will need a Microsoft 365 subscription to use certain features.

Microsoft first bundled Word, Excel and PowerPoint into a single app for iPhone and Android devices in February 2020. The company said the combined offering put all of a worker's documents in one place and required less disk space than downloading the apps separately. The apps are still available individually.

Before the iPad version release, workers could run the iPhone Office app on their tablets, but it did not take full advantage of the bigger screen. The latest version is for only the iPad.

Microsoft touted new features for the app as well. Employees can convert photos, screenshots and Word, Excel and PowerPoint documents to PDFs and sign with the Apple Pencil. The app uses Microsoft Lens to take pictures of handwritten notes, business cards and information on a whiteboard for later reference.

Microsoft Office
Microsoft's Office app has now been optimized for iPads.

In recent years, Apple has taken steps to make the iPad a more attractive option for enterprise users. In March 2020, the company updated the tablet's operating system to include mouse and trackpad support. Apple also released a backlit keyboard and trackpad, called the Magic Keyboard, for the iPad Pro and Air models.

Apple has seen a warmer reception in the enterprise of late. In January, IDC reported that the company hit a 23% share in U.S. enterprises in 2020, an increase from 17% the year before.

Constellation Research analyst Holger Mueller said a better version of the Office app for the iPad was a logical step for Microsoft, given how the device has become more of a business tool.

"Users want the same capabilities across operating systems, and ideally form factors, to achieve what these apps are about -- productivity," he said.

Mike Gleason is a reporter covering end-user computing topics such as desktop management. He previously covered communities in the MetroWest region of Massachusetts for the Milford Daily News, Walpole Times, Sharon Advocate and Medfield Press. He has also worked for newspapers in central Massachusetts and southwestern Vermont and served as a local editor for Patch. He can be found on Twitter at @MGleason_TT.

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