Office Web Apps access comes to Windows Mobile, iPhone, BlackBerry and more (with some caveats)

Summary:For the past year, Microsoft officials have said repeatedly -- without offering any specifics -- that Office Web Apps will work on mobile phones. But now that the public beta of Office Web Apps is available (as of mid-November), the Redmondians are revealing, with a little prodding. a bit more about the company's mobile Office Web Apps plans.

For the past year, Microsoft officials have said repeatedly -- without offering any specifics -- that Office Web Apps will work on mobile phones. But now that the public beta of Office Web Apps is available (as of mid-November), the Redmondians are revealing, with a little prodding. a bit more about the company's mobile Office Web Apps plans.

First, a quick review of what Microsoft has promised regarding Office 2010 on mobile phones. Company officials have been saying for months that Microsoft is planning to offer two different ways for phone users to get access to Office 2010: Via Office Web Apps (the Webified versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote) and via Office Mobile 2010, the phone-centric version of Office. Both Office Web Apps and Office Mobile 2010 are available as free, downloadable betas by anyone interested in trying them out. (It bears repeating that the Office Web Apps version that went to public beta in mid-November is not the free, consumer version of Office Web Apps; it's the beta of the business version that will be available as a paid offering and requires SharePoint.)

The public beta of Office Web Apps does support mobile access, Microsoft officials said. But Which phones and which browsers? Here's the list:

  • IE on Windows Mobile 5/6/6.1/6.5
  • Safari4 on iPhone 3G/S
  • BlackBerry 4.x and newer versions
  • Nokia S60
  • NetFront 3.4, 3.5 and newer versions
  • Opera Mobile 8.65 and newer versions
  • Openwave 6.2, 7.0 and newer versions

"Support," in the case of Office Web Apps, means viewing only of Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote documents. (No OneNote viewing is part of this beta, a Microsoft spokesperson reminded me on December 3.)  You cannot create or edit these documents from your phone. That's true now (as of the public beta) and will be true when the final versions of Office Web Apps are available by June 2010, Microsoft officials confirmed to me yesterday.

Office Mobile 2010 enables editing and viewing of Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote and SharePoint documents on phones running the Windows Mobile 6.5 operating system.

Microsoft is planning to provide the ability to view Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote documents on phones to customers who opt for its free Office Web Apps suite, too. But so far, it is still working out the details as to how that will work, as customers of the free version access Office Web Apps via Windows Live SkyDrive and not SharePoint, a spokesperson told me. The free version of Office Web Apps is slated to launch ahead of the business versions -- some time this spring, alongside the (beta or final -- not sure which) of the Windows Live Wave 4 suite of services -- Microsoft execs told me recently.

If you're wondering why you need SharePoint to view Office documents from your phone, here's what the spokesperson said:

"You don’t need the SharePoint Workspace on your mobile phone since you are accessing the docs through the browser, but you do need SharePoint on the back end.  Technically speaking, the 'doc library' needs to detect what kind of browser it’s talking to, and then send the document to be rendered in 'mobile Office Web App viewer mode' of the Office Web App when the end user opens the doc. SharePoint Doc Library handles this detection and properly hands off of the doc to the Office Web App/ browser for rendering on mobile phones."

Has anyone tried the document viewers on any phones other than Windows Mobile ones? I'm curious how well they work...

Topics: BlackBerry, Cloud, Collaboration, iPhone, Microsoft, Mobile OS, Mobility, Software, Windows

About

Mary Jo Foley has covered the tech industry for 30 years for a variety of publications, including ZDNet, eWeek and Baseline. She is the author of Microsoft 2.0: How Microsoft plans to stay relevant in the post-Gates era (John Wiley & Sons, 2008). She also is the cohost of the "Windows Weekly" podcast on the TWiT network. Got a tip? Se... Full Bio

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