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Microsoft Releases Office Mobile For Android Smartphones

Release of Office Mobile for Android sends clear message: Microsoft will use iOS and Android to fuel Office 365 subscriptions while keeping Windows 8 protected.

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Microsoft on Wednesday released Office Mobile for Android. The product includes smartphone-optimized versions of Word, Excel, and PowerPoint requires an Office 365 subscription. It can be downloaded from the Google Play store.

The release closely follows the availability of Office Mobile for the iPhone, which was released in June and also requires an Office 365 subscription. Office Mobile debuted last November on Windows Phone, the only platform that does not require an Office 365 account.

Despite rumors, Microsoft has not revealed any intentions to release Office versions optimized for iOS or Android tablets. As a result, the new products can be seen as Microsoft's attempt to profit from iOS and Android users while still promoting Windows 8.

[ What will Microsoft do next with its beleaguered Surface? Read Can Microsoft Rebound From Surface Flop? ]

In a sense, today's crowded device market has opened opportunities for Microsoft, which has positioned its cloud services as a resource for BYOD environments, and a potential infrastructure for hosting mobile apps. Turning Office into a part of the cloud has been a logical, and lucrative, step.

Still, Windows 8 hasn't sold well, which had made Microsoft hesitant to release a version of Office for either iPads or Android tablets. Win 8 is the only tablet platform currently compatible with Office, and Microsoft is unlikely to relinquish this potential market advantage until Windows 8 adoption has picked up.

In the meantime, the Android version of Office Mobile is a potentially useful perk for Office 365 subscribers. Office Mobile for the iPhone received mixed reviews, but many Android phones have larger screens, which could make them a more meaningful testing ground for Office's value on mobile devices. That said, some Windows Phones are adopting larger screens as well, and rumors have maintained for months that the iPhone will soon follow suit.

Office Mobile's notable benefits include the assurance that formatting will always be correctly displayed, even if a document has been opened and modified on a variety of Office 365-compatible devices. For those who need to work with Office files on the go, this feature is potentially powerful. Alternatives to Microsoft Office have grown more popular and proficient, but compatibility issues are still common when users try to access, share and modify files from different devices. To some, Office Mobile is the difference between simply being productive and wasting time tinkering with different apps.

Other benefits include hooks to SkyDrive or SkyDrive Pro, as well as an interface designed with mobile users in mind. Features such as Resume Reading, for instance, take the user to the point in a document at which she left off on her PC. This function eliminates the tedious task of scrolling through text on a small screen.

Similar functions include Slide Navigator, which makes it simple to browse PowerPoint slides, and an outline view of Word documents, which, like Resume Reading, helps readers to quickly negotiate large chunks of text. Though many of the features are focused on consumption, Office Mobile also allows users to modify documents.

Office 365 users can use Office on up to five devices. Office Mobile comes preinstalled on Windows Phones and does not count against this total.

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