- An update to its mobile Office app for the Apple Inc. (NASDAQ: AAPL) iPad
- A new release of Office apps for iPhone
- A preview version of Office for Google Inc.’s (NASDAQ: GOOG) Android platform
- A touch-optimized version for Windows 10, in preparation for the launch of the new Microsoft operating system next year.
The mobile apps are free and include the ability for users to create and edit documents in Word, Excel and PowerPoint.
Prior to the announcement, the iPad app allowed a user only to read or review a document, not create one. A free Microsoft Live account entitles a user to 15 GB of free storage space on OneDrive, and Microsoft’s recent deal with Dropbox also supports all the various devices on which Office is or soon will be available. Additional features and storage are available to subscribers of Office 365.
Is Microsoft shooting itself in the foot here, or will this lead, as the company hopes, to more Office 365 subscriptions, particularly from business users? About one-third of Microsoft’s 2013 revenues came from sales of Office. While it is unknown how a free version of the software will affect that figure, it seems a pretty safe to bet that most people won’t be using a free version of Word or Excel or PowerPoint as their sole document creation tool.
Some users, of course, can and will — and good for them. But business users probably will want to have a subscription to Office 365 in order to gain access to all the features of the programs and make the transition among devices as seamless as possible. Microsoft is not taking too big a risk here — and it is the sort of thing the company should have been doing for some time now.
One interesting thing to watch will be uptake of the offer on Android-based devices. Will Office be able to compete successfully against Google’s apps? And how about Apple’s iWorks suite? Microsoft might be late to the party, but the pace at which the company is catching up is picking up.