Office for iPad apps climb to top of Apple's download list

Microsoft's changes to consumers' for-free rights reignite interest in Office on iPad and iPhone

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Microsoft's Office for iPad apps jumped in download popularity on Friday, topping the App Store's U.S. chart the day after the Redmond, Wash. firm handed consumers more functionality free of charge.

On Friday, Microsoft's Word, Excel and PowerPoint apps for the iPad were ranked Nos. 1, 2 and 3, respectively, on the App Store free download list.

Two days earlier, those same apps were ranked Nos. 14, 39 and 44 in the U.S., according to AppAnnie, a company that tracks app store market data for developers. Distimo, which AppAnnie acquired in May but still maintains its own listings, pegged Word, Excel and PowerPoint on the iPad at Nos. 12, 39 and 48 on the same day, Wednesday, Nov. 5.

The rankings surge was triggered by announcements Thursday by Microsoft that it was moving the boundary line between free and paid on the Office for iPad apps. Previously, consumers without an Office 365 subscription could use the Office for iPad apps only to view documents. Under the new rules, consumers may now also create and edit documents, although features Microsoft labeled "advanced editing," as well as the unlimited OneDrive storage space, remained available only to Office 365 customers.

Businesses must still pay if their employees want to use Office for iPad, Office on iPhones and Android smartphones, and almost certainly Office on Android tablets when that ships early next year.

Office apps on the iPhone also pushed to near the top of the App Store chart on Friday: Word was No. 1, Excel No. 4 and PowerPoint No. 8. Those apps were new, so no direct comparisons were possible.

The iPhone trio had been spun off Microsoft's earlier app, Office Mobile, which debuted in mid-2013. Initially tied to Office 365 -- as was the iPad until Thursday -- the link was broken in March when Microsoft allowed consumers to download and use all Office Mobile features free of charge on their iPhones.

On Wednesday, Office Mobile for the iPhone ranked No. 307 in the U.S. by AppAnnie and No. 299 by Distimo.

Microsoft did not update the Office Mobile app for Android -- like its iOS cousin, it was a one-download collection of Word, Excel and PowerPoint -- and the rankings in the Google Play marketplace reflected that. On Wednesday, the Android Office Mobile was in Distimo's No. 336 spot for the U.S.; two days later it had slipped to No. 349.

If Microsoft's goals with the changes to Office for iPad -- and the spinoffs of individual apps from Office Mobile on the iPhone -- were to attract attention, collect downloads and garner users, it certainly did that.

Wordfor iPad ranking by Distimo Distimo

Distimo shows Word for the iPad surging to the top of the App Store free download list on Friday.

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