The pared-down mobile version of Microsoft Corp.

Microsoft Corp. today announced that the latest version of Office Mobile, which was offered in June to Office 365 subscribers using iPhones, is now also being offered Office 365 subscribers that use Android-powered handsets.

In a statement yesterday, Microsoft said that Office Mobile for Android phones could be downloaded from the Google Play Store, although subscription to Microsoft’s cloud-based office suite Office 365 is required. Availability is currently limited to the United States but Office Mobile will available in Canada and other countries within the next few months.
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Although now available for iPhone and Android users, Office Mobile is not being offered to iPad and Android tablet users. Another version of the software, Office Web Apps is available for iPad and Android tablet devices. However, while Office Mobile is an application that is installed on a phone and is able to work offline, Web Apps runs on a Web browser and requires an online connection.

“Office Mobile is the official companion to Microsoft Office,” a Microsoft blog said today. “Word Excel and PowerPoint documents look great on your phone, thanks to support for charts, animations, SmartArt Graphics, and shapes.”

The app allows users to make edits, add comments to documents on their phones and keeps formatting and layout intact so that when they view documents on their PCs or Mac computers the documents “look like they should.”

While clearly determined to make $100-a-year subscription to the Office 365 a more compelling proposition, Microsoft also appears focused on buttressing whatever edge its own tablet devices has over Apple’s iPad and a host of other Android-powered tablets, according to an analyst for a Toronto-based IT research and consulting firm.

“Subscription is the way to go these days making money out of software because you get customers to continually pay for something that used to be paid for in a single purchase,” said Brian Platts, principal of Nottingham Communications.

At the same time, he said, Microsoft could also be preserving Surface Pro and Windows RT’s advantage of being able to run popular Windows Office programs by not making Office Mobile available to competing tablet devices.

But continuing to protect its tablet devices despite sliding sales is a misguided strategy, said Platts.

“Conceptually Microsoft has forgotten who it is,” he said. “Software is what it does best and apart from the Xbox every time it fiddled with hardware, the company achieved disappointing results.”

Platt said Microsoft would be better off leveraging the advantage its productivity software has over competing office suite products and make Office “available to other manufacturers in any shape and form.”

Earlier this week, another analysts J.P. Gownder of Forrester Research, said that Microsoft could stand to make $1.4 billion if the estimated 140 million iPad users were to buy Office at $99.99 a pop.

Platt said tablet users would likely balk at the price.

“Making Office available to tablet users is a good move, but I don’t think people would be willing to pay $100 for a tablet app,” he said.

 

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