Microsoft embraces Google -- releases Office for Android

Two months ago, Microsoft released a version of Office for iPhone. While it was eagerly anticipated by many wishful Apple users, Office Mobile for Office 365 Subscribers was met with some dissatisfaction due to apparent limitations. Despite these shortcomings, many Android users were still saddened to be left out of the party. Today they can finally try it for themselves as Microsoft announces Office Mobile for Android phones.

While this is great news, the app has inevitable limitations. According to Microsoft, "...you will not be able to download and install Office Mobile for Android phones on an Android tablet from the Google Play store.  If you have an Android tablet, we recommend using the Office Web Apps which provide the best Office experience on a tablet". In other words, Office for Android will not run on larger screen devices -- just like Office for iPhone is not available for iPad. However, unlike iOS, Android can side-load applications. If someone was to leak the .apk file, there is a good chance it could be made to run on a tablet.

Unfortunately, the same major complaint about Office for iPhone applies here -- an Office 365 subscription is required. While I personally like this business model to combat piracy, subscription-based software is not a popular subject in the technology community. This excludes many paying non-365 Office users from using the app that they so desperately desire.

Negatives aside, the app should be a good experience for Android users. According to Microsoft, "...this app shows that we're committed to keep providing additional value for Office 365 subscribers. Office 365 subscribers will now be able to access, view, and edit Word, Excel and PowerPoint documents with Windows Phone, iPhone and Android phones". While Android already has a plethora of third party office suites, having the ability to use an official Office app is a huge win for BYOD corporate users.

My colleague Joe Wilcox recently declared that Microsoft shouldn't do Office for Android. In his article, Joe says "combined iOS and Windows Phone will be mobile platform second to Android in coming years. Microsoft should foster a united front against a common enemy". Many would agree with Joe and say that Office for Android is Microsoft waiving the white flag and signaling Windows Phone's defeat. However, Microsoft is quick to point out that Office on Windows Phone 8 is superior to the Android version in the following ways:

  • Office Mobile comes preinstalled
  • Office Mobile is pre-activated, so it will function without an Office 365 subscription
  • Office 365 setup combines the setup of email, Office Mobile and Lync, with a single entry of credentials
  • Office documents received as attachments in email will open directly with the Office Mobile app, not with viewers that may not render the documents correctly
  • Office Mobile has support for saving documents locally on the phone
  • Office Mobile includes searching and filtering for documents
  • Office Mobile supports opening IRM-protected email and documents

Do you have an Office 365 subscription and Android phone? Tell me how you are liking the new app in the comments.

Office Mobile for Android is available to download from Google Play now.

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