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Office for iPad shoots to the top of Apple's free app chart

Naysayers who expected the legendary Office suite to land on the iPad with a thud couldn't have been more wrong. Microsoft's productivity apps vaulted to the top of the free iPad apps chart in mere hours, with Word, Excel, and Powerpoint laying claim to the one, two, and three spots, respectively.

It's no surprise: Demand for the touch-friendly suite has been building for years, and as senior editor Mark Hachman explained in PCWorld's review of Office for iPad, Microsoft's apps are beautiful, deeply functional, and designed specifically for the iPad, rivaling (and maybe besting) Apple's own iWork suite.

Microsoft's iPad success story doesn't stop there, though. The free OneNote note-taking app has taken up the fourth slot behind the Office trio. Meanwhile, Microsoft's decision to make Office Mobile for iOS and Android free yesterday has propelled that app to the nine slot on the U.S. iPhone app list, according to App Annie data cited by Computerworld. The day before, when an Office 365 subscription was required to edit files in-app, it languished all the way down in the 569 position. (The new sticker price can't fix Office Mobile's deep flaws, though.)

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A screenshot of the top free iPad apps in the U.S.

It's a stellar start for the suite, but it remains to be seen if the success sticks; Office for iPad is a blockbuster release and a free download, a combination that lends itself to curious lookie-loos. While the free version functions just fine as a viewer, you need to spring for an Office 365 subscription to edit or create files. An Office 365 Home subscription costs $100 per year with usage rights on up to five PCs and five mobile devices included, though Microsoft plans to roll out a $70 per year Office 365 Personal subscription later this spring, which will work with one PC and one tablet.

And even if the suite's sweet design does lure new subscribers over to subscription offerings, the onboarding cost will be steep for Microsoft; the company has to pay the standard 30 percent revenue cut to Apple for any subscriptions sold directly within the iPad apps, Re/code confirmed Thursday.

That adds up fast when you're pushing in-app purchases costing $70 to $100, which might explain why Apple honcho Tim Cook welcomed Office to the fold so warmly on Twitter. But that cost is a relatively small price for Microsoft to pay to get open-walleted users into its ecosystem—and Office for iPad is truly targeted at businesses that are more likely to sign up for Office 365 through official Microsoft channels, anywho.

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