Microsoft Office for Android tablets is around the corner

Microsoft Office will soon be available for tablets running the most popular mobile operating system: Android, just as it is for iOS. But there’s a catch: the free version is only for consumers. If you want to use it for commercial purposes, you have to buy an Office 365 subscription.

Part of a company plan to get the productivity suite into more hands, Microsoft said Thursday that Office for Android preview is now available for people to test using version 4.4 (KitKat). A free final version will be out early next year.

In addition, company vice-president John Case said on a blog that for the first time Microsoft Word, Excel, and PowerPoint apps for Apple iPhone are now out. In March Office for iPad was released — Microsoft said there have been 40 million downloads — and that suite is also being updated.

These aren’t the only ways Microsoft is pushing its brand to other platforms. Case noted that there native apps on iOS and Android for OneNote, Lync, Yammer, OneDrive for Business and OWA.  Outlook for Mac is already here, and the Office for Mac beta scheduled for the first half of 2015.

Office for Android  feature large

“With Office on nearly every device, it’s incredibly important to us that customers have a consistent experience and the ability to do more–anywhere and everywhere,” Case wrote. “So, starting today, people can create and edit Office content on iPhones, iPads, and soon, Android tablets using Office apps without an Office 365 subscription.”

To get the preview Android tablet users have to apply through an online form.

Although Android 5.0 has just been released, Microsoft’s Office Android beta won’t run on those tablets  In an interview with Computerworld U.S., an industry analyst noted that when Office for iPad was released there was no beta. That’s likely because there are only two sizes of iPads. Android, by contrast, runs on devices with variety of screen sizes, operating system editions, screen resolutions and aspect ratios.

Note that the free version of Office apps don’t have all the features the paid version does, including the ability to use custom colours, text styles, WordArt and change data sheet labels.

In fact there was so much confusion after the original iPad for Android announcement, which included a change in what Computerworld U.S. said is the boundary between free and commercial use. As this piece points out, prior to Thursday, consumers without an Office 365 subscription could use the Office for iPad apps only to view Excel, PowerPoint and Word documents. Under the changed rules, those consumers may also edit and create documents, although with numerous restrictions — the “advanced editing” part — that may be useful to a minority of tablet owners.

But commercial use requires a commercial subscription with Office 365Plus.

Howard Solomon
Howard Solomon
Currently a freelance writer, I'm the former editor of and Computing Canada. An IT journalist since 1997, I've written for several of ITWC's sister publications including and Computer Dealer News. Before that I was a staff reporter at the Calgary Herald and the Brampton (Ont.) Daily Times. I can be reached at hsolomon [@]

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