Blog Post

Android gets Microsoft Office Mobile, but there’s a catch (or two)

Android(s goog) devices have a new productivity app to choose from and this time it’s Microsoft(s msft) Office Mobile. The software, which launched on iOS in June, is freely available in the Google Play Store as of Wednesday. It’s not free to use, however, and is limited to Android phones; the software can’t be installed on Android tablets.

Office Mobile Excel AndroidMicrosoft touts Office Mobile as the official companion app to Microsoft Office. With it, you can view or edit in Word, Excel and PowerPoint. Essentially, I see the product more as a companion to the Office 365 subscription plan. Why? Because you can’t use the app on your Android phone without paying for Office 365.

Microsoft has the same restriction for the iOS(s aapl) version so it isn’t playing favorites among competing mobile platforms. That is, if you don’t count its own Window Phone platform, which has Office Mobile pre-installed and pre-activated. You can use it on Windows Phone without paying for Office 365. Regardless, I don’t think the subscription is a bad deal for those who want or need to use Office on the go.

I don’t understand, however, why Office Mobile is limited to phones only. Here’s what Microsoft says in regards to tablets:

“We built Office Mobile for Android phones to ensure a great Office experience when using a small screen device.  Therefore, 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.”

It shouldn’t be too difficult for Office Mobile to run on an Android tablet; Google provides tools that allow Android apps to optimize themselves for various screen sizes and resolutions. So this isn’t likely a programmatic issue. And since the iPad can run iPhone apps and scale them up, you actually can run Office Mobile on an Apple tablet. Android tablets are on the outside looking in this time around: I checked in the Google Play store and it won’t let me install the software on any of my Android tablets.

I suspect if you really want to use Office on a tablet, Microsoft would rather you use the app on its tablets, which could provide the Surface slates a sorely needed sales boost.

6 Responses to “Android gets Microsoft Office Mobile, but there’s a catch (or two)”

  1. Cassie McIntyre CPhT

    Why would Microsoft allow you to run Office on an iPad or Android tablet?! What incentive would you have to buy the Surface? Once the Surface totally sizzles and the demand for Office on all platforms is there, they’ll give in. Just be patient. Or, maybe Open Office will step up to the plate?

  2. dennisvjames

    Mobisystems OfficeSuite 7 Pro on Android. Yeah I know it’s expensive for an Android App. Yeah I know they infrequently answer their support emails. But it’s 95% of what you use on your regular MS Office Apps and because it’s Android you can connect a Bluetooth keyboard and Bluetooth mouse to boot!

  3. darrylbs

    Office 365 !!!! What a load of crap with others out there that are free or a $1 you would think that with Microsofts loyal customers they would give you a break no way its the all mighty dollar thats all that counts to them to heck with peasants all we want is their $$$$$$$ shame on Microsoft. oh well just another one to uninstall and make room for Quickoffice or one of the others that does all the same things.

  4. Björn Bossman

    A catch or two? Well, there are a few catches more:

    1) Just for Office365 subscribers. Hello, how many of you have it?

    2) Just for smartphones, not for tablets. Do you like editing documents on your little smartphone screen?

    3) It has just a very few editing and formatting options which turns it de facto into a document viewer, but it doesn’t deserve the name office suite at all!

    Take e.g. TextMaker Mobile for comparison, the Android word processor from German developer SoftMaker: It has almost as much features as an office suite on a PC, including a very good on-the-fly spell checker, easy embedding of all TrueType and OpenType fonts, it gives you gives you full functionality with track changes (see changes, edit them, record, accept, reject, jump from one to another) as well as with comments, footnotes, endnotes, it lets you open multiple formats including doc/x and odt faithfully, convert
    from one format to another, export to pdf, access to several cloud storage services (not only, but also SkyDrive), it gives you a broad range of formatting and layout options, and so much more.

    It’s so much better than Word Mobile, and SoftMaker’s equivalents for Excel, and PowerPoint (PlanMaker Mobile, Presentations Mobile) are too.

    Blame Microsoft, try out the SoftMaker apps – btw. they have free trial versions in Play Store.

  5. I’m not a Microsoft hater by any means, but they’ve really lost their way on this connecting it to Office 365 (which is another area where they lost their way). Also, no tablet? Give me a break. If I’m going to use an app solution it will be a solution that works on all my mobile devices, not just the ones I’m least likely to even need it on. Seriously, dealing with Word docs or Excel spreadsheets on a phone is just something you would do in an emergency.