Microsoft Office for Android: Pushing Windows even further behind in mobile

Microsoft Office for Android: Pushing Windows even further behind in mobile

Summary: Microsoft came under some heat from Windows customers when it released Office for iPad before a touch-friendly version for Windows. That heat should escalate with word that an Android version will also beat the much-needed Windows version.


ZDNet’s Mary Jo Foley reported that Microsoft will bring an Android version of Office to market before one for Windows. She identifies the likely reasoning behind the move as one of market share. Microsoft wants Office to run everywhere, and the iPad and Android are the mobile elephants in the room. This may come back to bite Microsoft on the backside.

Excel iPad
Excel for iPad (Image: James Kendrick/ZDNet)

Microsoft has radically changed its business model with a focus on getting its products on all platforms. It’s done this quickly for such a large company, and that's impressive. Getting its services and software everywhere is a lofty goal, and releasing Office for iPad and a version for Android makes sense given the changing climate in Redmond.

It used to be that working with Office documents was best done on a Windows system, even touch tablets. Now working with Office by touch is better on the iPad than any Windows tablet.

Even so, Windows tablet owners can’t be happy that a touch version of Office is now delayed until some time next year according to Foley. Office can be used now on the iPad, and soon it seems it will be available for Android tablets.

Windows tablet owners can use full Office today, but it’s not that great of a user experience. Microsoft produced a fantastic touch version of Office for the iPad that leaves using full Office on Windows tablets far behind. I own both an iPad and a Windows tablet and the iPad version is so well done I no longer reach for the Windows tablet when I receive an Office document for review.

Think about that for a moment. With both an iPad and good Windows tablet in front of me, I grab the iPad to work with Office documents. It's so much easier and intuitive to do this, that the Windows tablet sits unused for this purpose.

One professional admitted he'd recently sold his Windows tablet that he'd been using for a year. The reason was he can now "work with Word documents better on the iPad than the ThinkPad Tablet."

This can’t be what Microsoft wants to happen. It used to be that working with Office documents was best done on a Windows system, even touch tablets. This was an advantage for Windows until the iPad version appeared. Now working with Office by touch is better on the iPad than any Windows tablet.

That will likely be true for an Android version of Office. Microsoft will not release a poor implementation of the suite for Android. This will make the vast majority of tablets available today better at running Office than Windows. Having to wait another year for the touch-friendly version of Office might impact the adoption of Windows tablets, and that’s a big deal.

According to IT professionals I've spoken to, the enterprise is deploying iPads constantly. Having such a good version of Office, even better than the one for Windows tablets, makes that easier than ever. Office is a key tool for the workplace, and now the iPad has it. That's likely to be the case for the many Android tablets as well once that version of Office is released. 

It's admirable what Microsoft is doing with its focus on services and devices. Getting its offerings on competing platforms should be a good long-term strategy for the folks in Redmond. Even so, that doesn’t mean it should allow its own platform to exist without the best version of one of its most important products.

The pace of the mobile industry is hectic, and waiting until next year for the touch version of Office may come back to haunt Microsoft. While it’s understandable what Microsoft is doing with Office support for its major competitors, it isn’t without impact on its own Windows platform. The company has developed Windows to handle the hot tablet segment, yet it’s not bringing its own touch-optimized Office suite to Windows fast enough.

Windows tablet owners may reach for the iPad or Android tablet to work with Office as it's better than Windows, and discovering they really like it better. That can’t be good for the Windows platform no matter the reasoning behind it.

See related: 

Topics: Mobility, Android, iPad, Tablets, Windows 8

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  • Yup!

    However, sales of the Surface Pro 3 should spike because of this mobile Office deployment on the Apple and Android platforms. (Always look for the silver lining.)

    As an aside, I recently purchased two 8" tablets - the iPad Mini Retina and the Dell Venue Pro 8. I purchased the Dell because I wished for a tablet that could run full Office with some touch functionality built in. In that regard, the Dell proved to be a great mobile platform for Office.

    HOWEVER - when Microsoft released Office for iPad, my mobile Office hardware platform changed to the iPad - for two reason: the iPad's retina display and Office for iPad is that much better - as James enumerated.

    And, just as the person that James cited in his blog, I now work on Office in a mobile environment with my iPad 100 percent of the time. (Although I didn't sell my Dell - it is a great tablet.)
    • Prototype

      Can you imagine the complaints that Microsoft would get if it came out with a touch only Office version on Windows first. I can hear the news writers cranking out complaint after complaint. I think the iOS version was prototype 1. Android will be prototype 2. In the process they have created a hunger for a touch version on Windows. No longer is it Microsoft pushing a change on the market but now they have created a market is demand first.

      I am not sure this strategy was intentional but the result is amazing to watch.

      The hardware market is still pushing touchless laptops. They are even bringing out new touchless models. I would have expected this to end by now but touch foes have drug things out complaining about Windows 8.X. With much less complaints about Office Touch I wonder if it will now be the end of touchless laptops? The market is starting to make some affordable desk top monitors with touch. I wonder if there sales will take off or at least increase?
      • People Always Complain

        The smart business seeks the customers who want what they're selling and sell what a profitable number of people want.

        "Prototype" is a semantic choice. There are merits to writing to multiple platforms and when the other platforms can deliver more users generating (we assume) more crash reports (to be clear, low-probability bugs manifest with more execution opportunities), then, indeed, the Windows-touch version will be a better product than if Microsoft started on their devices.

        Plus, there's the establishment of a customer relationship and the iPad user may find that a key application will be as useful on a less-pricy non-Apple pc.

        Also, the reality for iPad purchasers before this year was that the value did not depend on running Office, so would there have been complaints beyond the tech folks, generally ignored by the masses needed for billion dollar businesses? I doubt it.

        The downside to the tactic is clear, Windows in the mobile-tablet space may end up being irrelevant. As Microsoft is not counting on any licensing revenues for that os, so what? Unlike the pc space, the company has nothing to lose for Surfaces not achieving significant unit sales, other than engineering resources, which it currently can afford and which may be leveraged into better engineered products for other Microsoft businesses.
        • It's the Market stupid

          Exactly. Microsoft is doing what smart software companies do. Develop for large markets. Ballmer's strategy was to pretend that competition does not exist. That was his strategy. Sounds stupid but that was his brain child. He figured if they pretend that there is no competition, everyone else would too. But why would you. Microsoft make 30 year old software like Word and Excel. New stuff like Google, Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram. These are all really cool software that allows you to keep up with your friends and family. No one wants to run home, log into their PC and create a spreadsheet. Nobody.
          Tim Jordan
    • @ kenosha77a

      You misunderstand Microsoft's strategy. They are playing the long game again like they did between 1983 and 1995.

      When Microsoft introduced the first Multiplan or Multitool software in 1983, they in fact targeted the dominant platforms of the day - TRS, Apple II, Commodore - and even ATT Unix and SCO Unix PC computers and the IBM PC was only one among the many that they had supported. It was not until 1987 or 1989, that the game plan became clearer. Word and Excel for Windows came out and they had major feature set differences with other platforms.

      We are in session #1 of the market game if you ask me. For now, iOS and Android have won the platform battle.

      I would still venture to state like I have been saying for the past 3 years that it is tough to know who the long term winner of the mobile platform market is. I definitely do not think it will be Apple. But whether it will be Google or another Linux variant is open to question. The market is only 6 years old and mobile OS marketshares smoothened out to meet biased projections for the future are premature.
      • Thanks for the trip down memory lane, calahan.

        I still have my Tandy 102 "proto" laptop hooked up because I couldn't bring myself to take my old friend "off-line". But inside the 'ole gal, a ROM based chip containing "Multiplan" still resides. (Every now and then I bring up some old contact info stored in her memory cells. I think she likes that. Grin)

        You do know, of course, that Microsoft first debuted the GUI based Excel and Word on the Macintosh platform. So one might argue that the this version that shipped initially with the Mac was the premiere Microsoft application software effort at the time.

        Be that as it may, one can speculate all day on why the touch based optimized version of Office for the X86 platform will be the last touch centric Office product to ship.

        The fact remains that James, myself and many more Microsoft customers find it very odd and somewhat annoying that a premiere mobile touch centric Office suite wasn't available - from day one - when Windows 8 shipped.
    • Dumb

      That makes absolutely zero sense. Microsoft releases kick ass versions of Office for iPad and Android and you think people will then flock to a Windows tablet? HAHAHAHAHA, dream on.
  • Cool Story

    Yeah because office is the only application used on a x86 tablet. Cool story.
    And most serious work is done on real office and windows tablet has that, amd the touch version will be infinitly better than ipad and android. Stop spreading FUD. Moreover, this still only a rumor and the only person makes a big deal out this are trolls or extreme fanboys.

    And windows tablets are gaining at greater percent in the enterprise than ipad and android is nowhere. It only a mater of time before it does past it. Because enterprise uses office, accounting, erp, sales, design, outlook, and windows tablet has a better office than ipad given that a mouse and keyboard will used by any respecting professional.

    And so office can"t help windows tablet, but it can prevent it selling. That does not commune.
    • Left me got a loop too

      "Now working with Office by touch is better on the iPad than any Windows tablet"

      BS. Tried it on my iPad4. LMAO!! It's great to a point. Far too often, especially for more than simple spreadsheets, I get the dreaded "low mem" report in D&U. Never see this on my SurfacePro.
      • My A7 iPad Mini works just fine with complex Excel spreadsheets.

        I don't think I would trust my iPad 3 for those complex spreadsheets but the 64 bit A7 chip handled them just fine. Take that anecdotal experience for what it's worth.
  • nope

    This move by MS is not about windows, it's about making MS products available on all platforms. Office is not the only reason why someone would choose a Surface over an Android device. MS was late on mobility device but they are getting there. There are 100$ windows tablets coming soon and that will make windows mobility device more interesting. The spectrum of windows mobility device is already wider than any Apple or Android device, from 100$ rt tablets to surface 3. Android device are for light computing, media and social apps. Most owners use them to browse the web and play Games. I don't see many Android tablets owners do serious work. I think that many people will download Office for Android and then realise how much the device is not made for serious work or simply realise they don't need it.

    Office for Android will simply make people realise how Android is not suited for serious work.
    • Totally agree

      And I really like/ use Android.
      Work use for Android (for me) goes as far as Notes, email, occasionally reading a doc, and remoting back to the windows machine if needed.
      About what I personally think any pure tablet is useful for.
      Surface Pro (to me) is an ultra-portable laptop, that can double as a tablet.
      I might consider one in the future, but for now have a great notebook that functions beautifully. When that needs replacing...............
    • Yeah. I've never understood this. Is MS a software

      company or not? Seems like a lot of people, and MS itself think the only thing they do is the Windows OS.
      • Isn't this move an indication that MS is about Software

        not about Windows only, anymore.

        Microsoft software is now available on nearly every platform. Apple doesn't do this and Google doesn't do this either. This makes Microsoft much better at cross platform and much more useful.
        • I think you got it!!

          it's all about cloud and services... and services today is cross-platforms and multiple devices too... Right now you can't think doing a service for just Ipad or just Windows.. that's the new strategy an I think they are moving fast in order to catch up the market.
          • So maybe they should change the tag line to:

            A software and service company. Kill the "device" part. Each time Microsoft tries to get I to device, they create some type of conflict of interests with their OEM partners (Zune, Surface).
      • Fish or Fowl

        In transition. They are a software company in a world where software is becoming a service, unit prices are falling, and customers may choose essentially zero-cost operating systems.

        Subscription models are being attempted to get continuous revenue from customers. Microsoft wants to sell devices into sectors for which there will be zero os revenues.
        • Its true...

          Just look at the enormous adoption number for Linux desktop. I think that it have reached 1% already!
        • @ DannyO_0x98

          I would support your assertion.

          I think in the battle between platform and service, service has won. This is another reason that Apple should be afraid of the future. It has its entertainment data - music, movies, messages etc - all being generated from users of only Apple devices in formats that are interchangeable with other cloud based services.

          Apple seems to have woken upto that fact in realizing that iTunes users can work with other platforms too and not just iOS or Mac. But it may be late. The stagnation in marketshare is a predictor of a drop in marketshare. iTunes needs to exist as a cloud service accessible from Windows, Linux, WP, Android, iOS and Mac. I have no idea why they never pursued this approach. And now the streaming services are beginning to make an impact on their iTunes marketshare.

          Same need exists for Microsoft. Windows Phone will build marketshare slowly. But they need to have end users generate Office formatted data as soon as possible so that they can lock them into Office and also prevent competitors into getting on their home turf. Office still has like 95% or more of the business, enterprise and consumer marketshare in productivity software.

          The only short term solution is to introduce rapid release Office software as apps in both iOS and Android appstores. And tie them to Office365 so competing softwares will not get end consumer marketshare. For the part of moving them to Windows Phone platform, that can be strategized later.
  • The reality...

    The reality is that the enterprise sector is skipping Windows 8 so it's not necessary for Microsoft to rush a touch-based version of Office to Windows devices (since the Windows tablet market is so small... for now).

    Microsoft is betting (and I think they're probably right) that, eventually, the enterprise will come to its senses and abandon BYOD and turn to Windows tablets for the workplace. By then, Microsoft will have a first-rate version of Office loaded on their tablets (which will probably happen in 2015 with the release of Windows 9).