Microsoft may bring limited Office functionality to Android and iOS smartphones and tablets in 2013.

Eric Zeman, Contributor

November 7, 2012

3 Min Read

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Microsoft is preparing a new mobile version of Microsoft Office for the Android and iOS platforms. The productivity suite might arrive as soon as March 2013 for iOS and May 2013 for Android.

Reports suggesting that Microsoft would offer Office to platforms that compete with its own Windows Phone have long been in circulation. Today's report comes from The Verge, which claims to have details from several sources close to Microsoft's plans.

Microsoft Office will be made available to Android and iOS devices first as free applications. These free apps, including Word, PowerPoint and Excel, will require a Microsoft account. They will be limited to read-only, meaning Android and iOS device owners won't be able to make changes to the documents, presentations or spreadsheets.

[ Is Microsoft working on an iPad Mini competitor? Microsoft Planning 7-Inch Surface Mini? ]

Android and iOS device owners looking for more functionality will have to purchase a subscription to Microsoft's Office 365 service. Even then, editing functions will be limited to the basics. Corporations will also have the ability to purchase Office 365 subscriptions for employees. According to The Verge's sources, even this expanded functionality won't replace the full desktop version of Microsoft Office.

Earlier this year, Microsoft's Czech Republic subsidiary said Office Mobile would reach Android and iOS during the first quarter of 2013. Microsoft has not commented on The Verge's report.

I haven't used Microsoft Office in more than six years. Google Docs has provided all the word processing, presentation creation and spreadsheet functionality I need. I can use Google Docs on my desktop machines, laptops, tablets and smartphones no matter what OS they run, and it's all free. Google's cloud services are what make Google Docs truly useful. Not having to constantly transfer files from one machine to another has been a time saver and life saver at times.

That's why basic view-only versions of Word, Excel and PowerPoint sound somewhat useless to me. The inability to seamlessly sync the files between machines and form factors (let alone the inability to edit them) renders the idea moot. The Office 365 subscription would be a necessity. There's no word on how much Microsoft might charge Android and iOS device owners to use its cloud services.

On the other hand, these features are all built into Windows Phone 8. Microsoft took care to give WP8 rich editing and syncing capabilities with Office 365, SkyDrive, and its WinRT and Win8 cousins.

Is Microsoft hoping to eke out a bit of profit from its competitors, given their expansive scale compared to its own? Windows Phone has barely broken 2% of the U.S. smartphone market, while Android and iOS together own the lion's share.

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About the Author(s)

Eric Zeman


Eric is a freelance writer for InformationWeek specializing in mobile technologies.

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