Microsoft, Changing Tack, Makes Office Suite Free on Mobile

In a sign of the seismic changes underway in the tech industry, Microsoft will give away the software for iPads, iPhones and Android tablets.

Comments: 67

  1. I wonder when Microsoft will learn its other lesson and offer one version of Windows, for home or office users, without alienating existing Windows users because Microsoft sought change for change's own sake.

  2. I must have missed the announcement. Is Nadella going to start requiring that Microsoft managers base their decisions on the real world instead of the world as they wish it to be? What a shock that would be in Redmond. Imagine if Microsoft realized that, whatever its virtues, Windows Phone is a marketplace failure and is actually a major impediment to Microsoft being a force in mobile devices?

    Nokia smartphones would be bestsellers overnight if they went to Android with an engine to support Windows OS apps. There are only so many years you can keep trying to sell Betamax before you have to face reality. And the extra time dithering is just holding you back from getting to where you need to be.

  3. But I still have to pay for it on my Microsoft Surface tablet? Kind of a slap in the face for their own customers.

  4. Certainly, giving away software to achieve market penetration has worked before. Yet, giving away software after the market has rejected it, is, well... a Hail Mary Pass. The Microsoft Office mobile suite has never been successful by its merits alone. It could not compete earlier on against other competitors, when these weren't free, and unless the product improves, it will not compete against competitors now that fully or practically free.

    Frankly, the only appeal of Office in mobile, is that it still reigns the business desktop. But unless Microsoft makes Office substantially better in the desktop, this is also a last gasp. Most users will probably say the last useful improvement of Office occurred in the Office 97 version --all other changes basically have been moving menus and icons around to the detriment of usability.

    True cloud-centric solutions, like Google's and Saleforce, are likely to dominate this market until a true piece of software, that nobody has invented yet, makes Office-like labor (composing complex documents, editing large spreadsheets) actually more productive in tablets than in the desktop. At this point nothing beats Word'97 or Excel'97 on a dual monitor desktop for data entry, writing business emails, etc...

  5. Dude you are not with the Big Data program, I can tell. Excel 2010 has more rows and columns than I can use, for now, but 2007 did not.

  6. Yoandel - you said it !! How on earth can anyone deal with styles and section breaks on a hand-held? Styles and section breaks ruin documents even on a PC with attentive typists!

  7. In 1985 I could get a copy od MSDOS for an 8086 computer made by IBM. It cost nothing except the cost of a diskette. MS was not concerned. MSDOS was better than IBM's DOS (written by MS under contract to IBM). MS' contract with IBM that let them do this. Over and over again MS wrote stuff for IBM and then sold/gave away an MS version. IBM quit trying. When MS was the dominant force in the market, they destroyed Novell, WordPerfect, etc. by being the one-stop shop with office and O/S for business use. Now MS is in IBM's shoes with iPad and Android, and is trying to recapture a market they could have owned.

    What goes around comes around.

  8. Missing from this article is another major aspect of the announcement: Users of iOS versions of Office now have direct access to their Dropbox accounts. So for millions of people who use Dropbox as their cloud storage, there's no need for Microsoft OneDrive.

    While there are many alternatives for document creation and editing on iPads and iPhones, having free apps that are 100% compatible with the desktop versions of Word, Excel, and PowerPoint, and that don't lock you into Microsoft's cloud storage system, makes a compelling case for taking advantage of this offer.

  9. When? (Did I miss the roll-out date?)

  10. Microsoft
    has a high-tech
    document scanning technology enabled
    that scans your document
    as you start typing it online with OFFICE cloud. All docs saved in azure cloud are scanned.

    So every letter, every word you type,
    as you type, is logged in "real-time", and your stats are logged and sold to the highest buyer.

    If you are a business, your intellectual property is in the hands of a
    company that claims they are not liable if
    your data is stolen or they sell your data,
    or your data is resold many times over.

    Any IT person in this country needs to implement procedures that punish employess from using online document storage by third party providers.

    As a company owner, your assets are in jeopardy.

    Storing corporate files on the internet is a serious RISK.

  11. I believe there's an important message here, but the formatting of your message is a mystery that undermines your presentation. I am wondering if it has any relation to your subject.

  12. Can you provide a shred of evidence that Microsoft sells customer data under any circumstance, let alone by scanning and harvesting information that its customers store in the Cloud?

    This is complete nonsense.

  13. A year ago I bought a new PC laptop and I paid for Microsoft Office and installed it. But when I returned the PC a few days later, Microsoft told me I was out of luck, and I would have to buy Office again if I wanted it. I had to call and shout at them about 10 times before they agreed to give me an Office subscription for a year, which expired 12 months later.

    So even though I just paid for Office, I don't have the program on my computer now. They were really a nightmare to deal with and I don't ever want to buy anything from them again. I was getting the feeling that they need to soak consumers for Office in order to keep up with Apple and Google and Samsung. Maybe Microsoft should consider offering consumers value and service as a business model, instead of raking their customers over the coals and trying to operate a monopoly.

  14. Great! Now I can do pivot tables and mail merges on my phone while I'm sitting in the park enjoying the sunshine! Except that I will never do that. Apple and Google are still pushing the fantasy that real work can be accomplished on tablets and phones and that desktops and laptops are passé. But if you need the advanced features of Microsoft Office you will be sitting at a desk with a big monitor, a mouse and a keyboard. Ultimately this means that Office is a niche product used mostly for real work. Microsoft should embrace this niche status, charge a few hundred bucks, and keep making a solid tool used by millions of office drones. They are taking their eye off the ball by pushing Office as a mass-market freebie.

  15. I think you are right. I have been retired since 1996 and I have no idea what CORPORATIONS use. In 1996 only MS Office was supported by our computer department. Just before I retired, the banned anything Apple...

    And you are right, MS Office is used by 'office drones', a lot of people but definitely less than owners of fashionable tablets and popular Apple products.

    But times are changing...

  16. @Wylie ---

    You're certainly right with regard to creation of complex documents, but I see real value in being able to view and modify them on a tablet, and even on a phone.

    Is iOS Office a good fit for everyone? Of course not, but there are many millions of people who are familiar with the desktop versions, and would welcome a familiar product on another platform. I learned Excel at work, and I use it at home for managing personal finances and health stats - yes, including pivot tables. Could I learn to do that in iWork or Google Docs or some other tool? Sure, but why should I? If that makes me a drone, then so be it.

    In any case, I find it weird how many people are outraged at Microsoft for offering Office to them at no cost. It's not a plot, folks, it's just good marketing. Or maybe it's bad marketing. Whichever, it's not going to hurt you, I promise.

  17. Not quite accurate, it's not the full version being given away for free, just "basic" editing. Enterprise specific features (like editing Sharepoint documents) and advanced editing features still require an Office 365 subscription.

  18. Microsoft has to realize - and they still fail to do so - that there's a place and time for everything. Most, if not all, of us use our smartphone and tablets for different purposes than a PC or on a Mac. However big you make the screen of the devices, nobody's going to do serious work for long hours on a tablet, never mind on a phone. There will always be a place for PC at work, but in the consumer space? Not so much.

    Is it really that people need to try out using Office while they're on the go because they never use Office? Of course not. For MS to even put that as a end goal, it's laughable.

    MS should take a leaf from Oracle whose focus (and bread-and-butter) remains in the corporate sector. Oracle never pretends to know or even try to get in the consumer space because that's simply not their target customers. MS should need to keep that focus.

    If MS wants to tackle the consumer space, they need to have new offering to a brand new audience. Trying to retool its current offering won't work. MS should have learnt from its past mistakes of trying to retool windows OS (redubbed as mobile platform) for phones. Same goes with Office. Those are cash cows and huge success, but those were past glory. MS should use these cash cows to fund new initiatives to charter new waters if it really wants to corner the consumer markets which is where all the growth is these days.

  19. If you think MSFT is doing this to drive consumer usage of Office on tablets and smartphones, then you don't really understand the company's strategy. This is about understanding where you're vulnerable and mitigating that strategic risk.

  20. My advice to people who are thinking about using Office for their mobile devices? Don't. Unlike most tech companies, Microsoft does not have innovation in its soul. It is a predatory company from its start and is not interested in innovations but only in market shares (I have great admiration for Bill Gates as a businessman but not an innovator). The advance of Internet and mobile devices have finally loosen Microsoft's grip on all of us. Don't take the wrong path and become its victim again.

  21. I like Word.

  22. Well, yes, Microsoft is predatory. Now name a company in its field of any size that isn't predatory---and, don't say Apple. Many companies start out, especially tech companies, with noble ideals. Google said "do no evil" but success and money change all that in a heartbeat. So, make your decision based on practicality not false morality.

  23. With respect, what corporation is not interested in market share?

  24. Not many comments here. I wonder why.

    I have always been and I still am a WINDOWS man. I am still using MS Office from the last century - or was Windows XP released in the 21st?

    But times are changing. Ballmer now amuses himself with baseball (or is it basketball?) Mr. Nadella sees the light.

    Glad to hear that Microsoft remains the largest software company although they are now trying to enter the hardware market as well with more useful stuff (I hope) than some game hardware.

    I do NOT plan to switch to a tablet although I just bought a laptop of the same size as iPad with Windows 8 that looks very much, I think, as an Android system...

  25. Just like IBM I predict that MS will eventually spinoff all of their hardware businesses including Xbox into a separate company. Like Lenovo it will probably wind up owned by China.

  26. As a former ibanker, I predict even more pain for the young bankers of the world thanks to mobile PPT. Translated, pitchbooks 24/7. Yaaay!

  27. Since I already own office being able to run it on an ipad for free is nice.

  28. Smart, very smart move. Game changer.

  29. Microsoft Office is coming under a lot of pressure from open source products such as Libre Office. As the name implies, Libre Office is free. No money, no registration, no obligation. Just download it, install it, and use it.

    See: http://www.libreoffice.org/

    It works on Microsoft, and OS/X - also on the Linux operating system, which very few people use on the desktop.

    Many foreign governments force their workers to use this product rather than Microsoft Office. Not because they hate Bill Gates, but because they hate wasting money on the very expensive Microsoft product.

    Is it as fancy as the Microsoft product? No, but most people have no idea how to use any of the special features of the Microsoft product.

    Disclosure: I have absolutely no business interest in Libre Office whatsoever - I'm just another person happily using it.

  30. However, if you are sending your resume out, very few employers will accept it in anything but Word or possibly as a PDF. I haven't tried Libre Office, but I've used OpenOffice, and its word processing documents can't be saved as PDFs nor will their .odt extension be accepted by the software used by pretty nearly every HR department. I imagine the same is true of Libre Office. I have regular Microsoft Office now, simply because it's what i'm used to, and work on a PC, because it's most comfortable for the kind of work I do. (I'm an outlier, in that I make very little recreational use of the Internet - the occasional cat video and of course these comments). I can't imagine trying to write an essay or short story, or do any meaningful copy editing, on an iPad ... and forget doing ANYthing much on a phone.

  31. Writer is capable of opening and saving documents in a number of formats, including the Open Document Format 1.2 Extended (its default format), Microsoft Word's DOC, DOCX, RTF and XHTML.

  32. PDF is built into the Mac OS so that any app can save as a PDF.
    (Saving as a PDF is an option under printing.)
    Pity MS won't pay the small licensing fee to Adobe to provide that service.

  33. Office 365 "subscription" with an annual leasing cost ($7 x12= $84 annually) coming from the all powerful OZ Cloud means never owning a license to "your" Office applications or data. Putting data in the Cloud is like leaving your wallet/purse on a park bench and trusting that nobody will take it.

  34. If you have a Outlook.com account, or onedrive, you don't have to buy anything.
    Just use your email address and password and your god to go.
    You can also save your work to your device instead of the cloud.

  35. What happens when they give it away for free and no one takes it? And who can write a document on a tablet? PCs and laptops are not dead yet. I switched to Libre Office not because it's free, but because it works like Microsoft Office did back in the good ol' "pre-ribbon" days when it was user-friendly.

  36. I downloaded LibreOffice to my PC when forced to abbandon XP, and with it, my beloved Office 2003. The pre-ribbon interface afforded complete customization of the toolbar and maximizing the screen's "real estate." However, I'm now happily back using Office 2003; it runs like a top on Windows 8.1!

  37. For quite a few years used Microsoft Word and later on Powerpoint and Excel. However, all this was done at a desktop on the job. How is Microsoft going to translate these programs into user friendly apps, that's my question. Using Word usually means a lot of editing which is not all simple using touch screen technology.

  38. After reading the article I downloaded the apps.
    I'd hate to use it on an iphone 4, but on an iphone 6 or a ipad, it's easy to use.
    You won't want to write a novel, but memo's, letter's, and quick edits should be a breeze.

  39. Already writing a novel (and various university essays) on an iPhone 6 during subway commutes. Works beautifully with Pages, especially because when I get to my destination and open up my MacBook Pro, the document pops up on screen. Mobile word processing is fully upon us. Microsoft is heading in the right direction.

  40. It's confirmation that mobile is more consume than create and that serious office editing isn't happening on mobiles no matter what the platform. Except possibly students, who could really use any form of free in education.

    In the end, literally, this is a smart decision most likely driven by usage data, a win-win across-the-board. Well done Microsoft, belated well-done Apple, the usual sort-of though even more belated, well-done Google. Now back to work.

  41. I'm gladder by the day - hour, even - that I'm retired. Microsoft Office and my old office are now equally irrelevant to my efforts at genuine survival.

  42. How is the fact that a particular retiree does not need or want tools of productivity relevant to this article?

  43. So they stopped 'office on demand' this month which was a feature of 365 that enabled subscribers to install a streamed version of full featured office onto a guest computer. It was a great feature but they announced it was ending on a forum, but I didnt see it (because I don't lurk on MS forums). Nowhere on onedrive does it tell you the feature is no longer available. I spent frustrating hours trying to get it to work at my uni office (I'm not allowed to install my subscription of 365 on the desktop). The justification for cancelling this useful service randomly was that only 2% of users accessed it so it wasn't worthwhile for them to maintain. 2% of millions of subscribers is a lot of people. I would hazard a guess that 80% of subscribers weren't aware of the feature.

    So now they give free office to tablet users. Great, but I cant edit a 350 page thesis on a tablet!

  44. But LibreOffice may well handle it. It's free.

  45. Thank you for the useful information.

  46. Word on a cell phone. Trying to imagine what you could do with that.

  47. BIG GRIN- I spluttered coffee on my keyboard! Great comment.

  48. Presumably giving a mobile version for free would allow those who work 24/7 to read and response to docs, excel files and even power point presentations sent by their co-workers without switching to another program to edit and save revised versions.

  49. thanks but no thanks. my requirements have changed very little in years and i do not need a gold plated office suite. so i use the open source libre office on the PC and the mac, and donate a small amount to them from time to time.

  50. Too late MS.
    Waiting so long to do this literally trained an entire generation on how not to use Office.
    Another one of Steve Ballmer's brilliant ideas.
    It may be glacially slow but De-Ballmer-fication is taking place.

  51. Microsoft has been giving away (almost) Office for PC's for many years. As a student at PSU you could get it for $10. They also have corporate deals that work the same way. Employees can acquire it for 10 bucks. I've always figured they want to get you hooked early before another product gets ingrained in your system.

  52. This is long overdue. But the illustrations showing review tools (tracked changes) is misleading. This is a premium feature, requiring a monthly subscription to Office 365, rather than a feature available with the free Word app.

  53. As a former exec. with Encyclopaedia Britannica it's easy to see the 'late to the party' analogy. For a brief moment in time we were the Google. We had 'all' the world's knowledge wrapped up in 33 vols. The brass said, "humph people will always use books, make a CD if you have to. Charge $1,000 for it. In 6 mos. $500. In 6 more mos. it was free if you bought the books... While on the other side of the planet the seeds for EBs demise was already sealed. I hope its not too late for MSFT.

  54. Microsoft's own devices highlight the blurry lines here. What is Microsoft's Surface Pro 3? A tablet or a laptop? It's certainly mobile. If the free version of Office is going to be on iOS and Android, and presumably Windows phones, will it be free on the Surface running Windows 8? Things are only going to continue to get blurred, making the "free only on mobile" line even harder to draw.

  55. MS Office at work (paid corporate subscription) and Open Office on my personal home computer, compatible and works just fine. I've been doing MS software work arounds since Dos 2. I use Firefox and Thunderbird for email and internet. I love the business model but I don't need to buy it. MS Windows all around. I have a Mac but it feels like a toy for what I want to do on a computer (I don't do graphics and I don't game).

  56. The suite may have been released in 1990, but Excel and Word first appeared on the Macintosh in the mid 1980's.

  57. OpenOffice. Already free for all devices and operating systems.
    I switched to the OO, because I grew tired of lengthy installations,and other problems each time I bought an new PC laptop.

    I've never looked back,either. NOW-only if there was a reliable open-source/cross-platform substitute for Adobe Acrobat!

    Free,open source software may not be for everyone- and if you switch to a Linux based OS like Ubuntu,you face a learning curve.

    To use the old canard-MS is just rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic-as the lifeboats are being lowered.

  58. No, Office sales have been declining because of horrible user interfaces. Produce a product WORTH buying and we'll buy it. Sadly, Office 2008 on the Mac has a superior interface to any of the recent versions on the PCs.

    I'm still not sure why MS keeps trying to cram crap we don't want down our throats when it comes to UI. The talking paperclip, ribbon menus, and Windows 8. Anyone who uses their computer to get actual work done knows these "features" aren't wanted.

  59. Ever since WordPerfect 5.1 for DOS in 1989 , I have always preferred WordPerfect to MS Word; feature for feature WordPerfect has always been far superior. WordPerfect has "reveal codes" you can see search for. For example, you can search for the the next occurrence of turn-on-bold or turn-on-italics and you can also search for the line break (enter key) and tabs. You can tell visually exactly where italics starts and ends, even if the character in question is a space! None of this can be done in MS Word. To make matters worse, with the introduction of the "Ribbon," Microsoft made the suite much harder to use and keystroke shortcuts are unavailable for many features. I also greatly prefer WordPerfect suite's spreadsheet Quattro Pro to Excel, again because it doesn't have that horrid ribbon that gets in the way of keystroke shortcuts. And WordPerfect has retained the same file format for over 20 years for both the word processor and the spreadsheet, which is great for compatibility.

    There is at least one area where Microsoft Word is better than WordPerfect: Word has full support for Unicode and WordPerfect doesn't. For text that has non-English characters such as the Polish L slash or Cyrillic letters, Word is better than WordPerfect, especially when copying such characters from another application into the word processor.

  60. I wonder about the security of Office on mobile platforms. Most users who want Office for mobile are employees who want to view and edit work documents. With Office for mobile easily and freely available they may try to view and edit documents they wouldn’t normally bother to access on their smartphone or tablet.

    There is a lot coming against data in the smartphone/tablet environment. A lot more than what comes against the desktop work environment.

    The security of Office for mobile has to be paramount due to the type of content it has the ability to access and edit in enterprise.

    Are these mobile versions of Office going to be included in Patch Tuesday?

  61. In my opinion, Microsoft Office's such is doing right, we can print files via mobile phones , still I have to tell you that there's a special Chrome extension that saves a file to cloud storage directly very quickly in a click. see https://chrome.google.com/webstore/search/ballloon

  62. Microsoft Office is the best in the world. It has been used by a guy who started with a few dollars and it took him way up. Publisher was equally important for graphics. Outlook for the correspondence. Excel for the numbers and tracking goals. But FileMaker for the database rather than Access. Access was much to difficult. Not always the simplest way to go and definitely not the least expensive productivity software but it is worth every penny. Those who disparage it mostly are anti-corporation.

  63. I remember when Apple first came out with Pages. A reviewer, think it was the NYTimes, was comparing Pages to Word. He said that although Word was "much more powerful", Pages made the much better looking documents. I'm thinking what????? At no point was it ever described what this "power" was or why I would chose it over a better looking document. Also, look at a presentation made by Apple at one of their conferences using Keynote compared to a presentation by Microsoft using PowerPoint. Why anyone would choose to use an MS Office product on an Apple device is beyond me, unless making a good looking presentation isn't what you have in mind. You can't imagine how anyone would disparage Microsoft products unless they are anti-corporation? You do realize that Apple is worth $638 billion and Microsoft is "only" worth $403 billion don't you? Sure, if you are happy, stick with Microsoft products. They seem to work for most people. But don't expect people to migrate to them from other competing products these days. No matter what they do, most likely the flow will continue to be away from Microsoft products.

  64. The demise of desktops and laptops continues to be a myth for anyone serious about getting stuff done. Streaming music one thing, but for writing anything longer than a few short sentences, mobiles are not the technology of choice.

    Eclectic Pragmatist — http://eclectic-pragmatist.tumblr.com/

  65. I turned my back on Office after they ignored years of research on user interface menuing and implemented the abomination called the "Ribbon". It is is essentially a flat display of features taking up valuable screen real estate and if what you want to do can't be found there, you can pound sand because there's no layers of menus to go looking for it. The guy who created the ribbon left the company counting his money and anyone still using Office is stuck with the awful thing.

  66. Free Office for mobile devices sounds nice, but it turn out it is only for phones, which is of minimal value. There is no Office mobile - free or otherwise - for Android tablets.

  67. I downloaded the iOS Word app yesterday after hearing it was now free. I worked with it for quite awhile, but found it very frustrating to use, even though I'm quite happy using the desktop version.

    In the mobile app, there was no way to create a folder, so every file got listed separately. You can delete a file, but the file still shows on your list of files, even after deletion. I spent some time checking these 2 things online, and found out you could create a folder using the full online cloud version. You could also use this to delete a file, although it was confusing to do. Once you've altered these items in the online version, the corresponding actions will show up in the app. These are just two examples, but there were other similar problems with using the app. The instructions for both the app and the full cloud version were very meager, and did not cover a lot of things. I found numerous user comments dating back to April complaining about the same problems I was seeing, and apparently Microsoft has not felt the need to fix these items.

    Given the many limitations, I didn't see the point in using the app at all. I ended up deleting the app after trying it for just a few hours. I realized I'm much happier using Apple's Pages app on the iPad.