Microsoft stops development of touch-friendly Office apps for Windows

Word and Excel icons

Microsoft has confirmed that it is no longer developing the touch-friendly versions of Office apps for Windows

The Word Mobile, Excel Mobile, and PowerPoint Mobile apps found in the Microsoft Store first appeared for Windows 8.1, and development has continued with the release of Windows 10. But now this is changing, with Microsoft saying it wants to focus on the Win32, web, iOS and Android versions instead.

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While Windows versions of the touch-friendly editions of Office are not being killed off -- yet -- you shouldn't expect to find any new features added any time soon. Microsoft is ceasing development of the apps and focusing its attention elsewhere.

In a statement given to the Verge, Microsoft said:

We are currently prioritizing development for the iOS and Android versions of our apps; and on Windows, we are prioritizing Win32 and web versions of our apps.

The move is a little surprising given the fact that Microsoft has been trying to encourage other developers to produce UWP apps. But when it comes to Office, it is the desktop version that is far and away the most popular, so the reprioritization makes a lot of sense. Quite what this means for Surface Hub 2 remains to be seen, however. Unable to run desktop software, it could mean that a switch to focusing on a web-based version of Office is on the cards.

Image credit: PixieMe / Shutterstock

59 Responses to Microsoft stops development of touch-friendly Office apps for Windows

  1. John says:

    UWP effectively died with Windows Mobile which we all know despite the potential it held. That's it, there is nothing more to add. Developers never embraced it and MS themselves were always nothing more than luke warm on it.

    MS need to fully commit to a plan and then go all in. UWP is an example of the modern MS attempting to have it both ways. Choose a path MS and attack it taking no prisioners. Your attempt at pleasing everyone is heading you down a road to irrelevance.

    • async2013 says:

      They already are irrelevant now

      • nikolas4129 says:

        Lol, not even close.
        Defacto business and consumer OS. Maybe the slide is indeed happening, with Android trying to take the lower end market with Chrome books. But this will still take ages. MS and it's stronghold in computers and our lives is like a huge ship, it takes miles and miles to bring to a stop, conversely it also takes miles to change course (even a bad course), so John is correct MS needs to take decisive action and not make these halfway course corrections.

      • 1DaveN says:

        Unless you live in a cave, you must know you're just about the only person who still runs unix on a desktop? They might become irrelevant when Apple hits 8% market share, a goal they've been creeping up on for decades. Or when Verizon sells their 100th Android tablet.

      • async2013 says:

        I see absolutely nothing that microsoft make that would adversly affect my life if they disappeared completely

      • 1DaveN says:

        And yet you are consumed with even the most minor news announcements regarding them or their products. I assume those two upvotes are from MS employees who fear what you would have to say if you were an actual user.

      • PrivateOne says:

        Indeed.

      • John says:

        It's crazy you know. To suggest a company is struggling to stay relevant to consumers while they hold 80%+ desktop market share dominance is weird yet here we are.

    • The ship appears to have sailed. Had they had a fully fleshed out Windows on ARM six years ago it might have been different. They needed to have released something like Windows 10S back then with UWP versions of Office and full integration with Windows Server business networks. For home they needed a great suite of their own apps and good ports of some popular games on launch day.

      Most importantly, their should have been no desktop mode, Metro UI and apps only. They also should not have called it Windows. Microsoft OS or mOS might have worked. It might have been a nice touch to have to have the ability to run the Metro apps on classic Windows with some sort of emulator like BlueStacks does for Android apps.

    • James Brennan says:

      Oh yeah, you've got the plot... $114/share worth of irrelevance.

      • John says:

        Only for consumers James. MS will always be good stock value given their cloud and enterprise position.

      • James Brennan says:

        I'd suggest that focusing resources on a smaller number of much more widely used versions of Office is a net positive.

    • 1DaveN says:

      IMO the most awesome thing about UWP is servicing - the apps update themselves, and repairing one that's acting up is about 30 seconds of effort. They uninstall cleanly and completely. If UWP does give up the ghost, I hope they can at least preserve that functionality.

  2. MyDisqussion says:

    So this takes the pressure off of developers to write UWP? I never did see the attraction of touch in Office applications, either. That's not to say it might not be occasionally useful.

    • Thos. Edison says:

      Agreed. I never understood what made people think that they could "create" compelling documents or impressive graphics/presentations with french fry grease and mayonnaise smeared all over the screen.

      • Fantasm says:

        In my case, i have large screens.... that are further away than my arms are long.... I can just touch the bottom of the closest screen if i stretch and lean forward... the tops however are out of reach... touch was never going to be useful to me...

      • MyDisqussion says:

        Maybe Microsoft should let people choose their preferred interface for Microsoft OS. It's doable, but not particularly easy to fundamentally change the interface, nor is it officially supported.

      • D_Flag says:

        Off topic.

    • 1DaveN says:

      Don't tell Order, but Brad Sams is predicting the demise of UWP. In his view, it's no longer needed. (Guessing PWAs and more Intel, less ARM).

      • Order_66 says:

        PWA's may or may not be the future, microsoft was very foolish thinking UWP would ever replace win32 programs, you can't expect people to abandon their desktop programs for something much weaker.

      • ɥʇᴉǝpɹO says:

        There you go again. 🙄

      • 1DaveN says:

        I mostly agree. There are some really good UWP apps (Netflix), but it does seem like win32 is here to stay when you consider Office, most or all business accounting programs, etc. I sort of view UWP apps as lighter duty, single purpose things more akin to phone apps. They're great for what they do, but when I look at my favorite UWPs, they're mostly about entertainment, while my true productivity apps are all win32.

    • D_Flag says:

      Off topic

  3. Slavic says:

    MS returns back to sanity? Because this indirectly confirms the end of UWP concept.
    Long live Win32!

    • PrivateOne says:

      They’ll have returned to sanity when they drop the Windows Bob interface for something more user friendly like XP or 7...

    • randomevent says:

      You can call UWP APIs from desktop apps, so not really.

    • realDonaldTrump says:

      Win32 should have been discontinued a long time ago. It's as obsolete as Windows 3.1.

      • WOBFIE says:

        you yourself is obsolete, but we see you!

      • Mike says:

        So far there isn't a complete replacement available for Win32. Even the Windows based dotNet framework versions have gaps that require you call the underlying Win32 API. One of these gaps is in the handling of the large object heap - there are known methods using VirtualAlloc that would prevent this heap from being exhausted due to fragmentation.

    • WOBFIE says:

      Agree - MS was overexcited with mobile world and break everything they had. Desktop & Win7 will never go, but MS still don't understand it.

      • Stephen Green says:

        Sorry, but Windows 10x is way better than Win 7 or the 8 series! I have run each MS Windows versions since Win 1, and each are a quantum leap forward.

  4. M Adams says:

    Amazing!!! They want to not improve touch on Office/Win. And I though that they wanted the Surface line to continue. Without touch, why should I invest in a surface?? Or, while mine still works -- why would I upgrade my office??
    And I didn't think that even under the evil Nutella, they would alienate more people. I guess that he figured that killing the relationships with the users of MS Band, Win 10M, and Groove (along with other products) wasn't enough. Maybe he just wants to see how far he can go without flushing the whole shebang?? Eventually, even if the are small groups, turn enough away and you will lose (yes, even huge MS).
    So, the Surface users start migrating away and using alternative office apps. Then, desktops are migrated because -- let's face it -- having the same app/capabilities/interface on all devices IS a good thing. The next kink in the armor is now the once indestructible,mighty Office suite!

    • MyDisqussion says:

      I'm still waiting for my Band 3. I need to go check the mailbox and see if it arrived today.

      • 1DaveN says:

        I'm waiting for the next version of Money. I haven't had decent financial records since they killed it off. And don't get me started on Zune (although I still use and love the Zune app as the music player on my PC).

      • D_Flag says:

        Off topic.

    • Jon Goff says:

      Have you even used touch in office? The icons barely spread out much more than their normal spacing, and they don't get any bigger. I use my stylus anyway because it's more accurate. Touch support in office is practically non existent anyway, and I run it disabled on my surface because the layout remains the same for my desktop that way, and I can navigate with muscle memory. It's really a non issue.

      As far as "evil" Nadella is concerned, he's made the company relevant again. Am I sad they pulled the plug on the Windows phone? Yup, I still have and love mine, but the reality is Microsoft didn't hit their stride in time. Windows phones are far superior to Android or IOS, in my opinion, but they didn't get there until too late. Sad, but that's how the world works.

      Now, seeing where the market is going, Nadella is focusing on touch for android and IOS, which is smart. Considering the vibrant growth MS is experiencing under his leadership, and the fact that the company is innovative again, I'm happy he's in charge.

    • 1DaveN says:

      I use the win32 versions with touch, with no problems at all (subject to not really finding delight in typing long documents on a touch keyboard). These are the mobile apps, which despite having two Windows tablets, I've never found a reason to try. When I'm on someone else's device and need to use an Office app, the web versions work fine as well.

    • WOBFIE says:

      > having the same app/capabilities/interface on all devices IS a good thing

      Stupid point. You say same stupidity like "it's good to have same clothes for skiing, diving, tennis, etc".

  5. ɥʇᴉǝpɹO says:

    Microsoft has a version of .net core written for WASM (Web Assembly). I have seen full, multi-threaded, asynchronous C# applications running within a web browser under the .net core modules loaded in WASM.

    WASM means applications that are finally, truly, platform independent. It's adoption by developers might even make something like ChromeOS make sense in the future.

    • Mark Smeltzer says:

      WASM can ultimately replace UWP. Microsoft can just create platform bindings for WASM apps that are accessible to apps behind an "if (platform.isWindows) {}" type check.

      • Mark Smeltzer says:

        And most of the components they have created for UWP can be ported to WASM. So that is a great value outcome for developers and Microsoft.

  6. TomL_12953 says:

    Is touch destined to go the way of 3-D? If so, good riddance.

    • A B says:

      Not all touch is bad, it just doesn't work great with a 20inch desk monitor like Microsoft probably envisioned people using with Windows 8.

      For now lets hope touch stays in objects that require it, and are small enough to hold in our hands (like a phone or tablet).

    • itguy08 says:

      I love my touch laptop.

  7. Order_66 says:

    UWP has always been complete garbage and it's good to see them stop development on these, but why are they still replacing the more feature rich and modern aspects of windows 10 with weak UWP? the most recent victims onenote and snipping tool.

  8. Greg Zeng says:

    > " ... The Word Mobile, Excel Mobile, and PowerPoint Mobile apps found in the Microsoft Store first appeared for Windows 8.1, and development has continued with the release of Windows 10. ... "

    These exist in Android now, but are not yet integrated with each other. Looking forward to the new developments. This Microsoft applications include the "TOUCH" stuff that they claim to be avoiding for the moment.

    In Android, etc, this WIMP stuff is the concern of the operating system, not the applications. So very surprised that Microsoft does not know this.

    Similarly the CPU is the concern of the operating system. Application code is quite different imho. Perhaps Microsoft is not yet a Linux operating system (joke).

  9. MyDisqussion says:

    I guess his means that the developers get to keep the 30% cut now?

  10. Jarl-Penguin says:

    Good riddance. They didn't work without an Office 365 subscription anyways lol

  11. realDonaldTrump says:

    Touch friendly apps should be the highest priority for all app developers. Most laptops that come preinstalled with Windows 10 have a touch screen. Such laptops are just as common as Android devices.

    • Captain555 says:

      Nope. Laptops with touch screen are now very rare. Hybrids all have touch screen. I keep one laptop in stock for people who demands it, but it very rarely sell.

    • ADRz says:

      Touch-friendly Office apps would have to be terribly simplified to work. Now, they benefit from a rather dense interface that allows access to all key commands. If you introduce touch, the density of the ribbon would have be reduced (for the touch). It would be possible to take the interface into some depth, but this defeats the ease of use proposition.

      Office applications are mainly worked in the desktop and the laptop. Nobody has any need for simplified, touch version of these beyond what is allowed today. I am glad that Microsoft realized what was evident years ago and moved on.

  12. M⃠ ⃠S⃠ ⃠i⃠ ⃠N⃠ ⃠L⃠u⃠n⃠d⃠ says:

    ...but as a compromise, they will still be designed for 5" 240x320 screens.

  13. kburgoyne says:

    There should be a distinction between "touch friendly" and "touch prioritized". Apps such as Word and Excel inherently benefit from the keyboard. It'd be like having a touch prioritized Visual Studio. Doesn't make sense. However making sure they are still "touch friendly" so that more obvious things, like scrolling, work fine with touch should be kept in mind.

    The Surface devices have both touch screens and touch pads (mouse), as well as people are known to plug a mouse into their Surface... and it all makes complete sense because each input device has its own benefits at different times. I'll use Word, Outlook, Excel, etc, on my Surface Book fluidly switching around between the keyboard, touch pad, and touch screen.

    The keyboard is the center of data input in those apps. The mouse/pad is best when needing to make fine selections of small things like insert points in text, and the touch screen is useful for directly hitting those tool icons/buttons and scrolling.

  14. WOBFIE says:

    Stupids from MS only now realized what's the difference between mobile device and fully featured desktop! Ha-ha :)))) Let's wait until they realize it in Windows! Hey, slowpokes! :))

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