Microsoft Office Mobile for iPad has finally been announced after much speculation, bringing Microsoft's suite of Office programs - Word, Excel and Powerpoint - to the Apple iPad. The suite of iPad apps joins the iPhone Microsoft Office Mobile app Microsoft made available for iOS in 2013.

Interestingly, Microsoft has bought the apps to the iPad before offering a touch-based version of Office for Windows.

Office is already available on the Microsoft Surface, but Microsoft is yet to launch Office for Android tablets or a Metro version for touch-enabled Windows devices. However, a touch-based version of Office is also in the works for Windows, Julia White, a senior Office executive for Microsoft, confirmed.

Office for iPad launch: What does this mean for Microsoft - and for Apple?

Microsoft introduced the Microsoft Office Mobile app for iPhone users last year, but the iPad - which is naturally a better platform for document editing - wasn't supported. Many concluded that Microsoft was intent on promoting its own Surface tablet instead. With this in mind, many are now wondering why Microsoft has chosen to do this now. Is it a clever marketing ploy - a way of smuggling a Windows 8-esque interface under iOS users' noses, and getting them used to an alternative aesethetic? Is it desperation - the last throw of the dice for a company that knows it took mobile seriously too late and can't break into the iOS/Android duopoly? Is it a means to sell subscriptions to Office 365. Or is it a long-awaited but wise strategic play, one that was made possible by the advent of a new Microsoft CEO?

Probably a bit of all four (with a emphasis on the Office 365 subscriptions), but we won't know for a while. It's certainly exciting news for iPad users, although the lack of Office software for so long means most have found alternative word processors by now - maybe Pages, maybe iA Writer. It's perhaps more significant for the business users who have so far avoided iOS because of its lack of Office - which may have been Microsoft's strategy all along, but it hasn't paid off, with Surface sales lagging behind iPad sales.

Mike Culver, vice president and general manager of mobility at Logitech, got in touch to offer his thoughts on the launch (Logitech is sure to see it as an opportunity, since it makes - among other things - iPad keyboards).

"Through the introduction of the iPad Air with iWork, Apple underscored that the iPad is not just for content consumption, but for content creation. The addition of Microsoft Office is a second endorsement of that.

"Adding Microsoft Office and a keyboard to the iPad creates the perfect combination for using the tablet as your productivity device on the go."

The number of people left who felt that the iPad wasn't a serious work tool was dwindling, but this may well be the final nail in their coffin. Whether Microsoft ultimately finds that to be a compromise worth making in order to increase its Office 365 subscriptions is something we will have to wait to see.

Microsoft Office - Designed for the iPad

Microsoft's Sarah White described the Apple-like apps as "definitely not the ported Windows app to an iPad... These are uniquely built for the iPad."

According to Michael Atalla, director of product management for Office, Office for iPad represents neither a "blown-up" Office Mobile for iPhone nor a stripped-down Office for Windows, but rather a custom version of Office designed expressly for the iPad.

Given the fact that Apple is already giving away Pages, Numbers and Keynote for new iPad and iPhone users, Microsoft needed to pull out all the stops to make its apps as beautiful as Apple's are.

Complete guide Microsoft Word for iPad

How to get Microsoft Office on the iPhone free

Microsoft launched the Microsoft Office Mobile app for the iPhone in 2013. This app, which allows users to access and view Office apps was also updated in conjunction with the launch of the iPad Office apps.

Previously only Office 365 users could download the app for free. It is now free for anyone to download.

iPhone users with the Office Mobile app can access any Office documents stored in the cloud, via Sharepoint or SkyDrive now known as One Drive, which is part of a Office 365 subscription. It is also possible to open documents and spreadsheets from emails. When you click on a Word document, for example, you will see a preview in the Mail app, to view the preview in Word (or any other app, including Pages if you have downloaded it) click the Share icon and select Open in Office Mobile.

In the Office Mobile app there are two modes. Preview where you can select and copy text but do little else, and an editing mode where it is possible to edit documents (if you have a Microsoft account). 

When we opened a Word document in Office Mobile on our iPhone, it appeared to be possible to edit (we were able to paste in a paragraph) but when it came to save it we need to sign in to a Microsoft account. If you don't have a Microsoft account you will be invited to set up an account. Unfortunately while working through this process we got an error message when we tried to verify our account via Gmail.

(We also thought it was ironic that we couldn't use an old Hotmail address to sign up).

How to get Microsoft Office on the iPad for free

You can now download individual iPad versions of the Office apps from the Apple App Store for free, however, it is necessary to sign up for a Office 365 subscription to use the Office for iPad apps for editing (subscription prices are listed below). The subscription allows iPhone and iPad users to edit documents, spreadsheets and presentations on the go.

Considering that it is possible to view a Microsoft Office document on an iPhone or iPad without downloading the Office app (when you click on a Word doc in Mail, for example, Mail will open a preview), it seems pointless to use the Microsoft apps for no more than viewing. For this reason it is apparent that Microsoft's motivation must be to to encourage people to update to the 365 subscription.

Office for iPad and iPhone: Price

Microsoft Word for iPad, Excel for iPad, and PowerPoint for iPad are free to download from the iTunes App Store. As is the Microsoft Office Mobile for iPhone. However, users will be only able to view existing documents if they don't have an Office 365 subscription.

To be able to edit inside the apps you will require a Office 365 subscription. The Office 365 subscription will give users access to the full capabilities of the Office for iPad apps, including syncing across all your devices.

For business users, an Office 365 subscription is available in a number of different packages. Small Business can sign up for £3.30 a month (£39.60 a year) but they won't gain the desktop versions of the apps. The Small Business Premium package costs £8.40 a month (£100.80 a year, 25 users, including desktop versions). Midsize Business can sign up for 9.80 a month (300 users, including desktop versions and Active Directory). There are also enterprise offerings for £2.60, £5.20 and £15 a month.

Home users can sign up for Office 365 Home Premium subscription at £7.99 per month or £79.99 a year and get access to the features, including being able to create and edit documents, as well as desktop versions of the Office apps.

Office for iPad: Subscribing to Office 365

Wondering whether to get a subscription to Office 365? We look at what you get for your money.

Once you have a subscription to Office 365 you can edit documents or create new documents on your iPad. Users can also open existing documents stored on their OneDrive or any other SharePoint location.

What else do you get? Depending on the subscription you might get the Office apps for your Mac too. You also get 60 minutes of free Skype calls each month, and 20GB of SkyDrive cloud storage for each of up to five users.

Given that this is a yearly or monthly subscription, over the next few years you may end up paying more than you would have if you are currently running an ancient version of Office for Mac.

Apple on the other hand offers its suite of iWork apps for free on new iOS devices (and as a free update if you already own them).

Office for iPad: Syncing

Office for iPad integrates with a user's SkyDrive account, so users can create a document in the Office and then revise it on their iPad while commuting. The document will maintain its formatting even if the mobile version doesn't support that particular feature. 

The documents you have stored in OneDrive must be downloaded to your iPad before you can work on them. They are synced dynamically to the Microsoft Cloud at intervals. You can create and save documents on your iPad without saving them to OneDrive, handy if you are offline. However, it appears that it's not possible to move documents from OneDrive to your iPad if you want to work offline.

You can collaborate on documents, editing them at the same time as collegues - you need to tap a share button in the upper left of the toolbar to invite others to access the document. Note that it doens't update in realtime though, so you may refresh and find a paragraph you were working on has moved.

Apple iWork versus Office for iPad

Apple has its own office suite, called iWork. iWork is available for free with the purchase of an Apple iPad or iPhone, and it is also a free update to the previous version of iWork if you own them. Read more about the apps in the iWork suite for iPad and iPhone here:

Pages for iPad and iPhone review

Numbers for iPad and iPhone review

Keynote for iPad and iPhone review

Read our comparison reviews:

Microsoft Excel for iPad vs Apple Numbers review

Microsoft Word for iPad vs Apple Pages review

Microsoft Powerpoint for iPad vs Keynote review

Word for iPad

- Insert photos and have the text move around them, just like in Apple's Pages.

- Embed an Excel chart in a Word document and interact with it in the Word app.

- See the changes other collaborators have made to a document.

- Office for iPad preserves the footnoting capability.

Microsoft Word for iPad

- Organizes the commonly-used functions intuitively, access them via an icon-driven ribbon at the top of the screen.

- Tapping once on a word moves the cursor to that location.

- Tap twice to get slider bars for highlighting a block of text.

- Pressing and releasing to bring up a set of options to select or insert text.

Read more about Word for iPad here.

How to get Microsoft Word for iPad for free

Word for iPad, like the other Office suites below, is on the App Store now - and it's free. If that sounds too good to be true, be warned that you won't be able to actually edit any of the documents you create on the iPad without an Office 365 subscription - Small Business: £3.30 a month (£39.60 a year), Small Business Premium: £8.40 a month (£100.80 a year, 25 users, including desktop versions), Midsize Business: £9.80 a month (300 users, including desktop versions). As discussed above there are also enterprise versions, and home users can pay £7.99 a month for all the desktop apps and the ability to edit on the iPad (as well as the iPhone). 

Excel for iPad

- Simple menu bar including Ribbon for Excel for iPad (which is preferable to the desktop version).

- Includes a custom numeric and formula keyboard.

- Touch actions include two finger drags scroll, and pinch gestures zoom and unzoom, single tap to select a cell, double-tap will open the cell and display the keyboard

- Numeric keyboard

- Supports "formulas, charts, tables, sorting, filtering, and more", Microsoft says.

- Formulas are neatly organised by category.

- Auto saves.

- 16 templates.

Microsoft Excel for iPad

Complete guide to Microsoft Excel for iPad

Find out more about Excel for iPad here.

Powerpoint for iPad

- Includes its own 'laser pointer'. Just touch and hold the screen. There are also built-in pens and highlighters.

- Supports rich formatting, and formatting is maintained across multiple devices.

- Auto saves

- Sharing functions sound straightforward. Microsoft says you can share by simply emailing a hyperlink.

Microsoft PowerPoint for iPad

Microsoft PowerPoint for iPad