Free Office for iPhone, iPad & Android Arrives

Owners of Apple iPhones, and iPads won’t have to worry about subscribing to Microsoft’s Office 365 subscription service before they’re able to edit documents and create new presentations on the go. Early this morning Microsoft revealed two huge changes to its strategy meant to keep the entire world running on its suite of productivity apps. All mobile Microsoft Office apps are now free and it’s giving Android users a new interface just for tablets and refreshing the iPhone and iPad app as well.

Microsoft announced the changes and the new apps in two posts. The first is on it’s Microsoft News Blog. It details why Microsoft is making the changes and what we might expect from the Office team at Microsoft going forward. The second is on the Office Blog, and breaks down all the new document and presentation editing features that users can expect from the new Android tablet app and updated iPhone app.

The biggest shift is the apps themselves. Word, Excel and PowerPoint are being broken out into separate apps that are available for iPhone users to download. This move matches changes Microsoft made when it broke out OneNote from the rest of the Microsoft Office family recently. These new Office for iPhone apps use roughly the same design as the Office for iPad apps. There is support for note taking, editing and embedded charts and graphs.

Office for Android tablets.
Office for Android tablets.

Office for Android is probably the biggest announcement out of all those being made by the Microsoft Office Team. Even today, Microsoft had pretty much left Android tablet users in the cold. They could load the Office for Android app, but the design was tailored to smartphones. These apps aren’t finished yet — Microsoft says its planning to deliver final versions sometime in 2015, but for now its letting anyone preview the apps by filling out a simple form here. I’d advise Android users who want to download Android Lollipop over the next few weeks to not participate. Microsoft says it’s looking for Android tablets that are between 7-inches and 10-inches and that users “will need to avoid any system updates to the OS on [their] device to continue to participate.”

With all of this free Microsoft Office going around, its pretty easy to forget that Microsoft’s own tablet and Desktop operating system, Windows 8, doesn’t actually come with free copies of these apps. Even worse, there’s no actual version for owners of Windows 8 tablets who prefer to use touch instead of diving into the Desktop interface and using the traditional Microsoft Office apps.

Word for iPhone.
Word for iPhone.

Today’s post on the Office Blog included a single screenshot of what Microsoft says is Office for Windows 10. The version of Power Point in the post looks exactly like the version included in Windows 10, so it’s unclear what is new here. Microsoft says it plans to share more about Windows 10 at some point soon. We don’t know much of anything about the next version of Office on Windows.

From a user standpoint, Microsoft is poised to effectively kill any and every reason someone might have had to ever use anything besides Office away from their computer. That makes sense, Microsoft has been aggressively moving more of its services to both Android and iPhone and iPad. Originally, using either of these apps required users to have an Office 365 subscription that cost at least $6.99 a month. With no subscription requirement it’s completely unclear how Microsoft plans to make money from these iPhone, iPad and Android users. Perhaps, the company is banking on roping users into its Desktop apps as it sole way of making money on the offerings.

Regardless, free Microsoft Office is free Microsoft Office and most mobile users are going to be thrilled that they don’t have to worry about compatibility when sending documents to others. The new iPhone Word, Power Point and Excel apps should appear in the iTunes App Store soon.

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