Google has upgraded its Docs, Sheets, and Slides applications for the iPhone and iPad in a way that directly confronts Microsoft.

These apps will now allow users to open, create and edit native Microsoft Office files on iOS devices.

Google Docs will work with Microsoft Word documents, Google Sheets will handle Excel documents, and Google Slides will work with PowerPoint presentations. In addition, Google Slides is now a standalone program, where previously it was only accessible through Google Drive.

The updated apps with the new capabilities were already released for Android devices in June.

Google software engineer Li-Wei Lee, writing on the company's Enterprise blog, said "No one wants to worry about what format their documents are in or whether they have the right app on their phone or tablet. Whether you're working on a file originally created in Microsoft Office, or one created in Docs, Sheets or Slides on an Android phone, tablet, iPhone, iPad, Chromebook or laptop, with or without an Internet connection, you can do all this and more with Google Apps."

What Google has in mind is to render Microsoft's Office 365 (MS 365) suite redundant. Office 365 is a paid subscription service, about $100 per year for use of the suite on up to five devices. Google's Microsoft me-too is free. The company is banking on the financial inefficiencies of the Microsoft Office 365 service (80 percent of MS 365 licenses are only lightly used, according to SoftWatch (PDF) to sway Microsoft users over to the free, but less powerful, Google software.

Google's introduction of Apple-compatible upgraded apps comes about four months after Microsoft released Word, Excel and PowerPoint for iOS. The read-only versions are a free download, while fully functional versions can be included in MS 365 licenses.

Google still has an uphill battle on its hands. Microsoft Word for iPad is rated (registration required) No. 1 among productivity apps on iOS, while Google Docs casts its eyes upward at number seven.

Nor is MS 365 hurting for business, with over 5.6 million subscribers so far.

Google's release of iOS-compatible productivity apps will likely also result in collateral damage to Apple's own suite of related apps -- Pages, Numbers and Keynote -- which are now also free downloads for the iPad and iPhone. With Google's release of free productivity apps that compete with both Microsoft and Apple, the latter two companies are faced with loss of revenue and market share in one fell swoop.

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