Microsoft made multiple massive announcements for its Office suite this week. The big focus was Android and iOS, however, not the company’s own operating systems.
Here’s a quick recap:
- Creating and editing is now free on Android and iOS (Microsoft is even offering prorated refunds for Office 365 subscriptions).
- Standalone Word, Excel, and PowerPoint apps are available for iPhone, to match the iPad.
- Standalone Word, Excel, and PowerPoint apps are coming to Android tablets, and then later to Android phones.
In fact, the Android tablet apps that are supposed to match their iPad equivalents are already in preview, and the final release is slated for “early 2015.” The company didn’t share when exactly standalone Word, Excel, and PowerPoint apps would arrive on Android phones, but it did confirm they would replace the individual Office Mobile app, matching the treatment Apple’s iPhone received this week.
Touch-optimized versions of Word, Excel, and PowerPoint won’t be coming to Windows until Windows 10 availability, which is expected in the second half of 2015. What about Windows Phone? When the equivalent experience comes to Windows 10, it will be available for both tablets and smartphones via universal Windows apps.
In the meantime though, iPad and iPhone users already have touch-friendly standalone apps. Android tablet users will see them soon, followed by Android phone users. Own a device with a Microsoft operating system? You can wait.
Windows Phone users are getting the short stick because the platform only has Office Mobile (no standalone Word, Excel, or PowerPoint apps with more features). Windows users are getting an even worse deal: While the platform certainly gets standalone applications that have the full feature set, they are not optimized for touch, and they’re not free (you either need an Office 365 subscription or have to buy Office 2013).
In other words, if you want Microsoft Office on your mobile device, buying a Windows tablet or a Windows Phone is the worse choice. That goes for whether it’s from Microsoft’s own lineup of devices (Surface and Lumia) or from any of the company’s partners that offer Windows tablets and smartphones. An iPad or an iPhone, and soon an Android device, is clearly a better choice.
The Microsoft Band is an excellent example of how Microsoft can and should handle cross-platform support. Android, iOS, and Windows Phone are all treated equally, with the added bonus that if you use Microsoft’s mobile operating system, you get to use a digital assistant (Cortana).
Yet the whole touch-first Office fiasco on Windows is a disaster that Microsoft will be paying for a long time. Sure, at some point next year we’ll probably have Windows 10 tablets and phones that run a beautiful version of Office. By then, however, Android and iOS users will have had such an experience for months. Oh, and it will have cost them nada.