Microsoft is bringing a pared-down version of its Office software to Android phones, but it is keeping the app off Android tablets just as it isn’t making a version for iPads.
The company made the software available Wednesday through Google’s online Play store. It requires a $100-a-year subscription to Office and won’t be sold separately.
The new offering follows the release of an iPhone version in June and brings an Office app to phones running the most widely used operating system on new smartphones.
Like the other mobile versions, the new Android software is designed for lightweight use. For example, you can use it to view and edit an attachment sent by email. But it’s not meant to create a complex spreadsheet from scratch.
Microsoft is trying to make its Office 365 subscription more compelling, without removing an advantage that tablet computers running Microsoft’s Windows system have – the ability to run popular Office programs such as Word, Excel and PowerPoint.
“The release of this app shows that we’re committed to keep providing additional value for Office 365 subscribers,” the company wrote in a blog post. “Office 365 subscribers will now be able to access, view, and edit Word, Excel and PowerPoint documents with Windows Phone, iPhone and Android phones.”
Microsoft is pushing subscriptions as a way to get customers to keep paying for a product that was historically sold in a single purchase. The company touts such benefits as the ability to run the package on multiple computers and get updates for free on a regular basis. However, a subscription can be more expensive than buying the package outright for just one or two computers.
Microsoft said it designed Office Mobile for Android phones specifically for the phone’s smaller screen, even though many people will prefer editing documents on a tablet’s larger screen. The company has a version for iPads and Android tablets, called Office Web Apps, but that runs on a Web browser and requires a constant online connection. The new Android software is an app that gets installed on the phone and can work offline.
With a subscription, customers typically get to use Office on up to 10 devices. Five of them can be Windows or Mac computers or Windows tablets. The other five can be iPhones or Android phones. Windows phones come with Office installed and do not count toward the limit.
In failing to make a version for the iPad, the top-selling tablet computer, Forrester Research analyst JP Gownder has estimated that Microsoft is potentially ceding $1.4 billion a year in revenue, based on 10 per cent of the 140 million iPad owners paying for a $100 subscription. Gownder said failure to provide it on the iPad or Android tablets gives incentives for users to explore competing offerings such as QuickOffice from Google and iWork from Apple.
Technically, iPad users can download the iPhone version, but it doesn’t take advantage of the larger screen, so images and text are fuzzy when blown up. Android tablet owners won’t be able to download it at all through the Play store.
The new software requires Android 4.0 or later – the Ice Cream Sandwich or Jelly Bean flavours of Google’s operating system. At first, it’s available only in the US, though Microsoft plans to expand to 117 markets with versions in more than 30 languages.
Microsoft did not announce any plans for BlackBerry phones.