Microsoft is giving its Office for iOS and Android apps a makeover

Microsoft is 'Fluentizing' its Office mobile apps for iOS and Android. And it's seemingly getting ready to start bringing its Microsoft Research 'microproductivity' work into those apps, as well.
Written by Mary Jo Foley, Senior Contributing Editor
Credit: Microsoft

Microsoft has been working on remaking its Office mobile apps for iOS and Android in terms of design and functionality. On December 5, the company provided some details on what it's been doing, including on how it is making these apps more conformant with its Windows and Web Fluent design language and framework..

The more interesting piece here -- at least to me -- is that Microsoft is seemingly ready to start to incorporate some of the Microsoft Research "microproductivity" work into its mobile productivity deliverables.

Microsoft Research Chief Scientist Jaime Teevan has been championing this idea of breaking actions into "microtasks" -- such as writing one paragraph instead of working on an entire document. Microsoft Research has been focusing on the microtask problem space since at least 2015. Now Microsoft is starting to bring this work into its commercial products.

Microsoft officials didn't share specifics about how its microtask work will be added to Office on iOS and Android in today's blog post about its mobile Fluent work. The only tangible mention is this line:

"We're excited to build entirely new mobile experiences with Fluid, whose dynamic components foster microtasking by updating in real time and making it easier to collaborate."

The Fluid Framework -- not meant to be confused with the Fluent design langauge -- is Microsoft's new development platform and document model for "shared interactive experiences." Microsoft released public and private developer previews of the Fluid Framework in November. The Fluid Framework is meant to improve the speed of document coauthoring, as well as to allow applications to use components that can handle constantly updated information in near real-time. 

However, in 2018, Teevan and team published a paper on Play Write," a microproductivity tool that allows people to edit Word documents from their phones via such microtasks." So maybe the commercialization of Play Write is pending....

Meanwhile, back to Fluent. Today, Microsoft officials said that Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook and OneDrive on iOS and Android are getting the Fluent treatment. Yammer, Teams and Planner will be getting the same treatment at some point "soon." "Fluentizing" these apps means giving them brand-colored headers, new icons and other stylized treatments that combine the Microsoft look-and-feel with iOS or Android touches.

Officials said a team of more than 40 designers created mobile UI toolkits which will enable all designers at Microsoft to use the same shared components and Fluent work. The Microsoft design team also is designing "a mobile-born version of Fluent" and "exploring scenarios for dual-screen experiences, and creating mobile UI toolkits for external developers to build this mobile future alongside us," officials said today.

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