While the iPhone (s aapl) has received a few Microsoft (s msft) apps such as Bing and Windows Live Messenger, Microsoft Office programs have been no shows — until now. Microsoft announced today it is releasing an iPhone version of OneNote, its note-syncing app for the iPhone. The app will be freely available for a limited time and will only work in concert with computers running Windows.
The OneNote Mobile for iPhone app is just one piece of software that helps users sync their notes to a Windows Live Skydrive account. But it may signal that potentially more Microsoft productivity apps will come to iOS. There are other third-party mobile productivity options available, like Documents To Go, but few are as popular as Word and Excel. If you listen to the words of Takeshi Numoto, corporate VP for Microsoft Office, those apps may not be far off either.
“As new pieces of technology — new browsers, mobile hardware, smart phones and social networks — become bigger parts of (people’s) lives, they expect familiar technology, like Office, to help them access their ideas wherever they are. Today’s release is another step in Office evolving to serve our 750 million customers worldwide. Whether it’s on a PC or Mac, a mobile phone, or online through the Office Web Apps on multiple browsers, we continue to bring Office to the devices, platforms, and operating systems our customers are using. It should be about the ideas and information, not the device, right?,” Numoto wrote on the Microsoft Office blog.
Now, Numoto’s statement doesn’t exactly commit Microsoft to future productivity apps on iOS devices, but it suggests Microsoft is getting used the idea that embracing iOS might be advantageous. If it’s all about the software, then it makes sense not to preclude popular non-Microsoft platforms such as iOS. With Google (s goog) also pushing hard to make its Docs program more powerful on mobile, with full editing now, it’s logical for Microsoft to look at unleashing more Office mobile apps before iPhone and iPad users get used to working with Google Docs (or iWorks, for that matter) on their devices. It all jibes with an earlier report that Microsoft was looking at bringing Office to Nokia and “other leading smartphone platforms.”
Microsoft will need time to build up Windows Phone 7 as a major mobile competitor, but it has valuable assets in its Office products that can help the company be relevant in mobile if it thinks beyond its own mobile platform. Users would love to be able to have their Word documents available from a desktop, from the cloud and on mobile devices. Now Microsoft just has to get with the program.
Related research on GigaOM Pro (sub. req’d):