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Microsoft unveils Office suite on iPhone

– Microsoft’s Office software package is coming to the iPhone for the first time, offering people the ability to read and edit their text documents, spreadsheets and slide presentations at the doctor’s office or at a soccer game.

The company isn’t making an iPad version, though, nor is it offering the app on Android devices. Microsoft Corp. is treading a fine line as it tries to make its $100-a-year Office subscription more compelling, without removing an advantage that tablet computers running Microsoft’s Windows system now have – the ability to run popular Office programs such as Word, Excel and PowerPoint.

Office Mobile for iPhone became available free through Apple’s app store, but an Office 365 subscription is required to use it. That subscription lets you use Office on up to five Mac and Windows computers for the annual fee. A subscription can be more expensive than buying the package outright for just one or two computers, but the iPhone version won’t be sold separately for those who resist the recurring fee.

Microsoft has been pushing subscriptions as a way to get customers to keep paying for a product that has historically been sold in a single purchase. The company touts such benefits as the ability to run the package on multiple computers and get updates for free on a regular basis.

Microsoft said it wants to give customers yet another reason to embrace subscriptions by offering Office on the iPhone only with a subscription.

Chris Schneider, a marketing manager with Microsoft’s Office team, would not comment on any plans for the iPad or Android. Office is available on those devices through a Web browser, but it’s not as rich or powerful as having stand-alone software installed directly on the device.

The regular version of Office works on Windows 8 tablets, and most of the features are available on a version designed for tablets running a lightweight version of Windows called RT.

Customers needing to use Office on a larger screen than a phone might be drawn to the Windows tablets, which have lagged behind in sales and cachet compared with Apple’s iPad and various devices running Google’s Android system.

The iPhone app will come with Word, Excel and PowerPoint and will sync with Microsoft’s SkyDrive online storage service.

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