Quickoffice, maker of the Microsoft Office-compatible suit for smartphones, has released a free iPhone application - but you won't be able to use it to edit Office documents until the middle of 2009.
The application is called MobileFiles, and provides access to files stored in the user's MobileMe account. Such files can be downloaded, held locally and viewed using the in-built viewers on the iPhone, but they can't be edited.
Quite why Quickoffice would be giving away such an application wasn't clear, so we took the question up with Paul Moreton, VP of product management. He explained that MobileFiles is in part a promotional exercise, but is mainly being given away because the company had to develop it anyway.
Quick Office makes money by charging handset manufacturers, notably Nokia, to embed a view-only version of Quickoffice that interprets MS-Office documents for display. Those viewers can be upgraded to editors if the user pays a fee direct to Quickoffice. Not only is the purchase process easy for the user - they simply select a menu item in the viewer and are walked through the process - but Quickoffice also gets 100 per cent of the revenue, as opposed to the 40 per cent it could expect going through a content aggregator. Of course, that approach isn't going to work on the iPhone, where there is only one content aggregator and you have to go through it.
There are also technical problems in editing Office documents on the iPhone - primarily the lack of recognisable file system or access to files created by other applications. MobileFiles is able to download files, but it can't share them with QuickSheet or QuickWord as every application on the iPhone exists in glorious isolation. Which is why the Quickoffice suite, when it arrives, is going to have to contain a version of MobileFiles in order to have any files to edit.
That should happen next year - with QuickSheet for the iPhone coming in the first few months, and QuickWord following shortly afterwards. Both of those will only be able to edit documents downloaded from MobileMe or create documents to be uploaded there. That's a workable solution, but hardly ideal. The majority of Quickoffice users today are downloading email attachments, editing them, and then forwarding them on - something that the security model of the iPhone still won't allow, as email remains blissfully unaware that any other applications exist and can't even upload attachments to a MobileMe account. ®