February 2016: Business Tech Bytes

Long wait for Office Mobile was worth it


Jill Van Hoesen

It’s here, it’s free and this has certainly been a long time coming.

Microsoft Office Mobile is finally now available for any mobile device you may own. Originally released in 1996, as Pocket Office for Windows CE, the first mobile version of Microsoft Office came complete with Pocket Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and Access. Eleven years and many updates later Redmond rebranded Pocket Office to Windows Mobile and, in June 2007, released Office Mobile to coincide with its release of the Windows Mobile 5 operating system. This version still boasted the core Microsoft Office Mobile apps of Word, Excel and PowerPoint, while adding OneNote in Office Mobile 2007.By 2009, Microsoft was chasing its competitors in the mobile market and announced that Office Mobile would be released for the Symbian platform as a joint agreement between Microsoft and Nokia. With dismal success, 2010 saw Microsoft debut Office Mobile 2010 with the release of the Windows 7 phone. Hoping to gain traction in the mobile arena, it was the first to allow Windows Phone users access and edit capabilities in a dedicated Office hub.

This Office Hub, now preinstalled into the operating system gave mobile access to the desktop favorites of Word, PowerPoint and Excel.

Still trying to catch up, 2012 saw the much anticipated Microsoft Office Mobile for Windows 8 Phone release. Redmond saw they still were not gaining market share of the quickly growing mobile device space and released Office Mobile for Apple and Android devices in the summer of 2013. In March 2014, the first dedicated version of Office for tablet computers was launched as Office for iPad.

Originally not free, by November 2014, Microsoft was announcing not only the split of the “Office suite” app on iPhones into separate, standalone apps for the old standbys of Word, Excel and PowerPoint, they also included direct integration with Dropbox in the revamped version of Office Mobile for iPhone. January 2015 brought the “Windows 10: The Next Chapter” press event, where Redmond unveiled Office for Windows 10. Finally we saw a Microsoft product that was optimized for smartphones and tablets with basically “universal” applications that could run on both Windows PCs and Windows phones by sharing a similar underlying code. It did not stop there and in June of 2015, Microsoft released Word, Excel and PowerPoint as standalone apps in the Google Play Store.

Microsoft has really out done themselves with the recent release making mobile Microsoft Office apps available for iPad, iPhone, Windows Phone (if anyone still owns one?), Android devices and their own Surface tablet. Apple users can download all of the Office pieces, like Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote and Lync apps, separately from the iTunes App Store for free. The most recent update allows you to create and edit Word, Excel and PowerPoint documents on your iPhone. Android users can download the whole mobile Office suite in one app with an additional standalone app for One Note, Microsoft’s note-taking app. Microsoft also automatically saves your work, so there’s no worry when you’re away from your desk and need to create a document, everything you need is in the apps for the mobile Microsoft Office Suite.

The mobile Microsoft Office apps allow users to edit and create documents for free on devices with screen sizes of 10.1 inches or less, though as with the iPad versions, an Office 365 subscription is required to unlock premium features and for commercial use.

Tablets with screen sizes larger than 10.1 inches are also supported, but are restricted to viewing documents only unless you have a valid Office 365 subscription which will allow document creation and editing.

If you haven’t tried out the full mobile Microsoft Office Suite, you’re definitely missing out. Microsoft Office is still the standard software for home, office and just about everyone else who needs to write (Word), calculate (Excel) or present information (PowerPoint).

While the transition to mobile of our beloved Microsoft Office suite has so been slow, almost 20 years, in 2016 I can say “the wait has been worth it.”

Jill Van Hoesen is chief information officer for Johnson Newspaper Corp. and a 25-year IT veteran. Contact her at jvanhoesen@wdt.net. Her column appears monthly in NNY Business.