Microsoft has removed the subscription requirement from Office for iPhone and the version that it makes available to devices running Google’s Android operating system. In effect, Office is now free on all three smartphone platforms.
News of the change surfaced late yesterday. Microsoft only talked about Office for iPad at its briefing yesterday, leaving most to suspect that it would still require iPhone and Android users to have a subscription to its Office 365 service in order to use these apps. Downloading the apps this morning revealed that’s not the case. Anyone with an iPhone or Android device can have the mobile Office suite of productivity apps at no charge.
It’s likely that Microsoft made the change due to its evolving mission with mobile devices. Originally the company saw the apps as a way to increase market share and Office’s dominance on smartphones that don’t run its Windows Phone operating system. That being said, Microsoft seems to be chasing the freemium model on mobile devices: give the app itself away and convince iPhone and Android owners to pay for more features down the road. It’s a tactic we first saw when the company shocked the world by releasing OneNote for Mac at no charge. Free OneNote for Mac users need to upgrade to get some functionality.
We tested Office for iPhone this morning. Users can quickly create Word and Excel documents and there are a few templates for users to choose from. By default the Office for iPhone and Office for Android apps give users access to any files saved on Microsoft’s OneDrive cloud storage service. Users can edit those documents and immediately sync any changes back to other versions of Office. The app also integrates with SharePoint servers for small businesses.
All told, it’s a very robust offering and a win for Microsoft, Apple and Google users. About the only one who doesn’t win out in this situation is Windows Phone. Microsoft had billed Windows Phone as the only mobile operating system that provides Office and OneNote at no charge. How that’ll effect Windows Phone sales remains to be seen, but it’s possible some users could decide to go with an iPhone or Android device since Office is available on those platforms now.