What do you do after you drop the subscription requirement for the mobile version of your productivity suite and downloads skyrocket to 100 million? If you’re Microsoft, you bring disparate versions of that mobile app — iOS, Android, and Windows Phone versions, in this case — to parity. That’s the goal of the new preview version of Office for Android the company unveiled today, an extension of the tablet-targeting release last November.
If you’re even peripherally familiar with Office on the Web or desktop, you’ll feel right at home.
The revamped Excel, Word, and PowerPoint apps mostly achieve the goal of mirroring the iPhone and Windows Phone releases — if you’re even peripherally familiar with Office on the Web or desktop, you’ll feel right at home. The iconic navigation and menu ribbon lives at the bottom of the screen, as do the review and formatting buttons. Many of the features on PC, like real-time edits and chart, text, and table insertion in Excel, make the jump to the mobile apps.
The apps are hardly pure ports, though. They’ve been augmented to leverage Android in logical ways. Text in documents automatically reflows, for one, and you can open and save documents in OneDrive, SharePoint, Dropbox, Google Drive, Box, and other cloud services.
Eager to try your hand at the latest preview? Luckily, installing the new Office isn’t too hard. As with the Android tablet preview, Microsoft’s adopted the Play Store’s staged rollout tools. If you’ve ever signed up for a beta app release on Android before, you know the drill: Join the Office for Android community, click the links for Word, Excel, and PowerPoint, and wait anywhere between a few minutes to a few hours until you have access to the relevant Play Store pages.
Looking ahead, Microsoft’s already begun testing Office for Windows 10, but only on the technical preview of Windows 10 Mobile. Microsoft’s gotten better at supporting multiple platforms, but if history is any indication, expect the newest Office to make a very slow migration to Android and iOS in the next few months.
The Android Office updates just scratch the surface (no pun intended) of Microsoft’s broader cross-platform effort. The company announced in March plans to bring Cortana to iOS and Android, and it recently added PowerPoint and OneDrive support to the Apple Watch. It’s a play at brand proliferation, and it seems to be working — Microsoft’s paid Office tier numbers north of 12 million subscribers, and it’s growing.
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