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Microsoft team members after today’s launch

SAN FRANCISCO – Even though it seems like everyone saw it coming, Microsoft rocked the tech world today by announcing Office for iPad, the first iteration of its productivity suite for Apple’s tablets.

Based on GeekWire’s initial hands-on time at Microsoft’s event here today, these feel like the Office apps that iPad users have been waiting for. They deliver on Microsoft’s promise of apps that feel like Office while at the same time feeling native to the iPad, which is no mean feat.

Microsoft Word for iPad.

The apps perform their core functionality admirably: it’s easy to type up documents in Word, make spreadsheets in Excel and design presentations in PowerPoint. The apps support all of the fonts that are built into the desktop version of Office, and they’re designed to make documents look and feel the same across all versions of Office.

In addition, Microsoft has shipped a few neat tricks with the apps. Word users will be able to drag around media files like images and charts and see text smoothly reflow around the new content, making it possible to add and reposition images on the go. Excel for iPad will automatically suggest different charts to users based on the data that will be going into them, and people presenting using PowerPoint will be able to use a digital laser pointer while presenting by moving their finger around on screen.

Microsoft PowerPoint for iPad.

OneNote for iPad users also get a treat from today’s event: Microsoft just pushed an update to the notetaking app that brings its design in line with the other Office apps available on the iPad, which is a nice touch as Microsoft looks to provide a compelling competitor to Evernote. Earlier this month, they released a free version of OneNote for the Mac, which is the first time that software was available for Mac users.

While all of the Microsoft representatives I talked to today were quick to say that users will get a fuller Office experience on the PC, these apps feel like a great choice for users interested in using Office on their iPad.

Users will be able to download Office for free today, and can view Word, Excel and PowerPoint files without paying a cent. Editing those files, however, requires an Office 365 subscription. The apps do require iOS 7, which means that they’re only available to people who have an iPad 2 or later model.

Right now, users can purchase a year-long Office 365 Home subscription, for $99.99 through the app, or they can sign up for a $9.99 recurring monthly subscription through Microsoft’s site. That subscription provides users with Office access to 5 computers and/or tablets, so larger families may have to ration tablet access if they also have several computers.

For people who aren’t interested in spending that much money on an Office subscription, Microsoft will be lauching its Office 365 “Personal” tier later this spring, which will give users Office 365 access for one computer and one tablet that will cost $6.99 a month or $69.99 for a full year.

Here’s a demo video that shows the new Office for iPad in action:

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