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

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.

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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 has covered the tech industry for 30 years for a variety of publications and Web sites, and is a frequent guest on radio, TV and podcasts, speaking about all things Microsoft-related. She is the author of Microsoft 2.0: How Microsoft plans to stay relevant in the post-Gates era (John Wiley & Sons, 2008).

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16 comments
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  • Leave it to MS to be behind the curve on this one

    or rather missed the boat completely.

    I have been using Document To Go, for some time now. I can create and edit Word and Excel items, and view other file formats at will, all from my mobile device.

    Oh yes MS is making their product initially functional for their WiMo based devices, but leaves every other device hanging. Luckily there are other companies like DataViz who are not asleep at the wheel.

    Microsoft had better wake up, as they are being left behind when it comes to the mobile platform.
    Snooki_smoosh_smoosh
    • They already are behind...

      They just need to do some serious catching up
      rjohn05
    • They are left behind

      but they are also making Office Mobile for Nokia
      and Blackberry handsets too. So, I think the team
      is catching the right path.
      ArnavM
    • Sorry, but you missed the boat

      They've had "pocket" versions of Office apps for a long time. I had them on my original Pocket PC 2000 Casio Cassiopeia E-125 years ago, even before Windows Mobile was named so (and was adapted for use on phones).
      Joe_Raby
  • RE: Office Web Apps access comes to Windows Mobile, iPhone, Blackberry and more (with some caveats)

    Access to Web Apps = View *ONLY*?
    Well, what's the point of doing Web apps then if it's not available to start a new file or edit an existing file?
    Looks like this 'ol boy is going to have to go to the free version of GoogleDocs...
    Crashin Chris
    • You write a lot of reports on your phone?

      I'm not that good at typing with my thumbs.
      HollywoodDog
      • Probably not,

        but it comes in handy if you want to jot a few notes from an impromptu meeting, or if someone sends you a document for proofing, and you only need to make a small edit, it comes in handy to be able to edit the document. You can't edit, if you have read only access.

        Even MS sees the benefit of doing this on WiMo. The fact is that they are for the time being leaving their product crippled on all other platforms but their own. And that is fine, it leaves the door wide open for other dev's to publish mobile versions of their own, while MS drags their feet.
        Snooki_smoosh_smoosh
  • RE: Office Web Apps access comes to Windows Mobile, iPhone, Blackberry and more (with some caveats)

    What about the Palm Pre? Webkit browser is basically
    identical to iPhones...

    Well, I'm sure it'll work unless MS does an idiot move
    and restrict browsers by name and not capability.

    lilsim89
  • Netfront browser?

    Wow! I can view Office documents on my PSPgo now. ;)


    Now if only they had a PDF viewer.... :P
    Joe_Raby
  • Sorry, I don't understand a need for a MS Office viewer for the iPhone.

    The iPhone 3GS has the ability built in to read Word, Excel,
    and PDF files without any MS or third party viewer.

    When one does want to edit and create Word and Excel files
    there are very good third party apps for that. On my Palm
    was Documents To Go, very good product. Don't have it on
    my iPhone, haven't had a need to edit or create documents.
    BubbaJones_
    • View, Create n Edit MS Office files


      If you need to do the above on MS Office files, you can use a RDP client to run a MS Office from your XP machine by using the software below

      http://www.aikotech.com/thinserver.htm
      http://mochasoft.dk/iphone_rdp.htm
      ThinkFairer
  • you can already view Office docs on iPhone/iPod Touch..

    so what's the point of this?
    doctorSpoc
  • Skyfire and Google Apps

    Why would I want to spend $$ on MS web apps when I can have 100% functionality of a PC Desktop using SkyFire to access Google Apps from an S60 Nokia Windows Mobile product?

    For those who may not be aware, SkyFire is a browser which effectively puts AJAX, Flash functionality on your smartphone and essentially makes your phone's browser behave as a PC browser.

    Again that's 100% Desktop equivalent functionality, including support for reading and writing documents--not just reading in the current version of Office Web Apps.

    Don't believe me? Go over and get a free copy:
    http://www.skyfire.com/

    Google Apps makes MS Office Web Apps, well, pointless.
    D T Schmitz
  • RE: Office Web Apps access comes to Windows Mobile, iPhone, Blackberry and more (with some caveats)

    Hey Microsoft! Welcome to the 21st century.

    Has Microsoft ever heard of Google apps?
    ebhb2004@...
    • Are you having a laugh?!?!?!

      Of course MS has heard of Google apps, hence why MS web apps are so much better! Have you seen the fidelity in Google Apps vs MS web apps?!?!

      They may be slightly later to release the tech, but it's that much more advanced, it's worth the wait!!!

      Get your facts right before posting snide comments.
      juggsy
      • C'mon man

        His facts are straight. Your smugness has blinded
        you from realizing his hidden point that people
        don't need advanced features on a phone. They
        want to make SIMPLE edits i.e. verbiage, grammar,
        spelling, approve/reject tracking changes, etc. I
        personally don't think those types of edits would
        be too much to ask of MS
        BBWI