Ina Fried

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Microsoft Brings the First Piece of Office to the iPhone: OneNote

While Microsoft still hopes to one day rival the iPhone, the company’s Office unit is the latest part of Redmond to acknowledge that, for now at least, the iPhone reigns supreme.

Microsoft is releasing on Tuesday a version of its OneNote note-taking application for the iPhone. The program will be free for a limited time, Microsoft said, adding that notes taken on the iPhone will automatically be synchronized and backed up to the Web using Microsoft’s Windows Live SkyDrive.

“We know people care more about what they do than where they do it,” Microsoft Office unit Vice President Takeshi Numoto said in a blog post published on Tuesday. “Whether it’s on a PC or Mac, a mobile phone or online through the Web Apps on multiple browsers, we continue to bring Office to the devices, platforms, and operating systems our customers are using. It should be about the ideas and information, not the device, right?”

Of course, OneNote is just one piece of Office–and one of the newer and least used of the main components at that. It’s also an interesting choice, since OneNote isn’t available natively for the Mac. But Microsoft seems to be leaving the door open to bring other pieces of Office to the iPhone.

In an interview, Microsoft senior director Jason Bunge said that the company had been working on OneNote for the iPhone for the past 18 months. Bunge wouldn’t say whether other Office components are also in the works, saying only that the company had no other apps to announce at this time.

“You can absolutely expect Office to expand its presence across other platforms,” Bunge said.

As for whether Microsoft plans to eventually charge for OneNote or other iPhone apps, Bunge said he didn’t know how long OneNote would remain free and had no other details on Microsoft’s pricing plans.

The goal in bringing OneNote to the iPhone, he said, is to allow those who do use the program on the PC to have it with them wherever they are. Rival programs, such as Evernote, have already been available on the iPhone.

Bunge did put in a bit of a plug for Windows and Windows Phone, saying, “We want Office on our Windows devices to be the best productivity experience that’s possible.”

OneNote is not Microsoft’s first app for the iPhone. Redmond already offers a Bing app, as well as Windows Live Messenger and the Microsoft Tag barcode reader, among other programs.

Update, 12:15 pm PT: Some people, including Mobilized, are getting an error message when they try to log in with their Windows Live ID. Since OneNote for the iPhone requires a Windows Live account, it effectively means those encountering the bug can’t use OneNote for the iPhone at all for now.

Microsoft says it is aware of the issue and is investigating.

1:45 pm PT: Microsoft has posted a blog noting the issues and says they are appearing intermittently as a result of high demand, with the recommended approach as “just keep trying.”

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There’s a lot of attention and PR around Marissa, but their product lineup just kind of blows.

— Om Malik on Bloomberg TV, talking about Yahoo, the September issue of Vogue Magazine, and our overdependence on Google