Earlier today, Microsoft released Office for iPad. Word, Excel, and PowerPoint are now available in the iOS App Store, for free ... kinda.
If you are an Office 365 subscriber you'll be able to, "View, create, and edit Office documents on your iPad with touch-friendly Word, Excel, and PowerPoint apps." If you're not a subscriber, you can become one for just $99.99 per year, or $9.99 per month as a home user. Or you can choose from among several business plans.
For those who don't use Office 365, you can view office documents you bring into the system, but you can't make any edits. Rather than give you a detailed breakdown of these apps and the functionality they'll give you, I'll recommend you read this great ZDNet Article by Ed Bott.
What's interesting to me is the "why" of it all. The iPad editions are aimed squarely at business users. It's clear that Microsoft is working to drive business customers to the cloud. Those who already live in Office 365 will be among the first to appreciate this new Office. However, companies that use Office, but do not — or cannot — use cloud services will see limited functionality. Of course, there are still benefits to be had. For example, in iOS, Word track changes don't appear within the Mail app's native document viewer. Now, though, one could send a message attachment into the Word app and see the track changes and a fairly good likeness of the document.
In the coming weeks, I'll take a deeper look at Office on iPad to see just how well it supports some of the more complex document elements. Typically, mobile apps provide compatibility with Office documents, but not 100% compatibility. Simple documents are easy, but complex ones are hard. The desktop version of Office is really powerful. It's likely that Microsoft's iPad apps don't support some of the more advanced features that some businesses rely on as part of their day-to-day operations. Section breaks, automatic numbering, cross referencing, headers and footers are just a few of the many things that might unravel if modified in a mobile app. I'll report back when I know more.
Download the apps, they're free: