Microsoft Office Mobile: Right For You? - InformationWeek

InformationWeek is part of the Informa Tech Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them.Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.

IoT
IoT
Cloud // Software as a Service
News
11/15/2014
08:46 AM
Michael Endler
Michael Endler
Slideshows
Connect Directly
Twitter
RSS
E-Mail
50%
50%

Microsoft Office Mobile: Right For You?

Microsoft now offers free iOS and Android versions of its popular Office apps. Are they a good fit for your mobile productivity tools?
Previous
1 of 7
Next


Now that more than 40 million people have downloaded Microsoft's Office for iPad, it's easy to forget that not so long ago Microsoft seemed more likely to invest in the search for Bigfoot than in iOS software. And iOS apps that were free? Anathema to Microsoft, at least based on the signals given off over the years by former CEO Steve Ballmer.

Nevertheless, free iOS apps are just what Microsoft released this month: Office for iPads, iPhones, and, in a preview version, for Android tablets.

The free iPad version is even more polished than its paid predecessor, but the iPhone version got the biggest overhaul. The old Office Mobile for iPhone (no longer offered) was a barebones offering that didn't look like either the desktop version of Office or even an iOS app, with the few tools it had buried in a counterintuitive interface. The new free Word, Excel, and PowerPoint apps for iPhones, in contrast, include most of what's found in the desktop versions and look and behave like iOS apps.

The new free mobile apps are just the latest in Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella's apparent effort to redirect the company to embrace mobile. In the last few months Microsoft has launched a blitz of new and updated OneNote, Lync, Yammer, and OneDrive apps for iOS and Android devices. It also revealed plans for a new version of Office for Mac, which has been largely neglected since 2010, perhaps not coincidentally the same year iPads were released. Finally, Microsoft aims to use its cloud-based machine learning capabilities to give us products such as Clutter, which can allegedly prioritize your inbox for you, and Delve, an app through which useful information finds you, rather than the other way around.

Nadella's decision to unbundle Office from Windows and make the iOS software free is probably more practical than visionary. While waiting the long four years it took Microsoft to release Office for iPad, smartphone and tablet users were forced to turn to a variety of alternatives for mobile productivity, led by Google Apps and Apple iWork. Suddenly, many users found themselves in a world in which Office was no longer a prerequisite because these rising free competitors did the job adequately. The shift might have started as a consumer movement, but thanks to BYOD it has trickled into the workplace.

With its rich toolset, Microsoft Office is still the best productivity software for business, but consumer sales are down, especially if you don't count Office 365 revenue. Microsoft's bow to free iOS and Android apps was inevitable.

To give focus to Microsoft's new strategy, CEO Nadella has for months now floated different catchphrases in public to describe it: "mobile first, cloud first," "post-post PC," "platforms and productivity," and so on. According to a recent interview in the New York Times, he has settled on the slogan, "Getting stuff done."

The more Microsoft helps people "get stuff done" on whatever device they choose, the more likely it is to become a major mobile player, with or without making its own mobile devices.

If you're thinking there has to be a catch to the free apps, there is. You still need an Office 365 subscription to enable some tools, such as Word's Track Changes. This means many business users will still need to pay. Still, the free apps do a lot more than the old offerings, and are sure to please both consumer and business users who can do without some of Office's tools.

Are Microsoft's free mobile Office apps just what you need to remain productive while away from the desk? Click through our slideshow to see what the free Word, Excel, and PowerPoint apps for iOS and Android have to offer.

Michael Endler joined InformationWeek as an associate editor in 2012. He previously worked in talent representation in the entertainment industry, as a freelance copywriter and photojournalist, and as a teacher. Michael earned a BA in English from Stanford University in 2005 ... View Full Bio

We welcome your comments on this topic on our social media channels, or [contact us directly] with questions about the site.
Previous
1 of 7
Next
Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Comments
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
Joe Stanganelli
50%
50%
Joe Stanganelli,
User Rank: Author
11/18/2014 | 10:45:14 AM
Re: SoftMaker Office HD
I have a Bluetooth keyboard that comes in handy in a pinch when I need to type up some in-depth notes quickly, but for -writing- and entire document, something like Dragon Dictation might be handier.
Joe Stanganelli
50%
50%
Joe Stanganelli,
User Rank: Author
11/18/2014 | 10:43:38 AM
Re: SoftMaker Office HD
Certainly.  The point of Office, for me, isn't to create stuff independently on my mobile devices; it's to seamlessly work with the documents I create on my regular old-fashioned computers.  For me, it's the two-way compatibility that's important.
Michael Endler
50%
50%
Michael Endler,
User Rank: Author
11/17/2014 | 1:26:28 PM
Re: SoftMaker Office HD
Thanks for the tip, Sandworm. I haven't tried SoftMaker but will have to check it out.
Michael Endler
50%
50%
Michael Endler,
User Rank: Author
11/17/2014 | 1:25:14 PM
Re: SoftMaker Office HD
"If you use MS Office on a Windows desktop and have a non-Windows mobile device, Office is still the best choice. The transition is now nearly seamless across multiple devices with OneDrive and Dropbox shared storage."

Indeed. While I'm sure some people with specific needs might quibble over what's "best," I've found it's quite useful to have Office on both my iPad and PC. The idea of using an iPad to compose an entire article sort of terrifies me, but I really like being able to move between devices for tweaks, proofreading, etc.
Joe Stanganelli
IW Pick
100%
0%
Joe Stanganelli,
User Rank: Author
11/17/2014 | 3:42:06 AM
Re: Office for Mac
On the one hand, the "why did they move this?" attitude is something that most companies face when they undergo a UX change (Facebook and Netflix are notable in this regard).


On the other hand, I HATE THAT @#$%*^& RIBBON!!!
Joe Stanganelli
50%
50%
Joe Stanganelli,
User Rank: Author
11/17/2014 | 3:38:49 AM
Mobile Office
I'm actually looking forward to trying this out.  I tried to download these apps onto my phone last week but couldn't get them to load/work for some reason.

I think mobile Powerpoint would be especially useful -- particularly being able to control and change slides mid-presentation from my phone.
Michael Endler
50%
50%
Michael Endler,
User Rank: Author
11/16/2014 | 10:58:54 PM
Re: Office for Mac
Indeed, that's a constant tension for Microsoft-- negotiating its need to move forward, and its need to support its massive existing user base. "Why did they move this?" has been a frequent complaint for recent versions of Office. Some people still lament the ribbon. It's one of the pitfalls of Microsoft's success. When you have more than one billion users, some of them are going to want to move fast and break things, and some are going to say, "This is great, don't change it" about decade-old products.
Michael Endler
50%
50%
Michael Endler,
User Rank: Author
11/16/2014 | 7:42:05 PM
Re: Office for Mac
Ha ha, not sure I agree! I've always found it a bit slower and buggier than concurrently-available versions of Office for Windows. But I guess you didn't like some of the relatively recent UI changes in Windows versions?
Slideshows
11 Things IT Professionals Wish They Knew Earlier in Their Careers
Lisa Morgan, Freelance Writer,  4/6/2021
News
Time to Shift Your Job Search Out of Neutral
Jessica Davis, Senior Editor, Enterprise Apps,  3/31/2021
Commentary
Does Identity Hinder Hybrid-Cloud and Multi-Cloud Adoption?
Joao-Pierre S. Ruth, Senior Writer,  4/1/2021
White Papers
Register for InformationWeek Newsletters
Video
Current Issue
Successful Strategies for Digital Transformation
Download this report to learn about the latest technologies and best practices or ensuring a successful transition from outdated business transformation tactics.
Slideshows
Flash Poll