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Forbes: Microsoft Embraces Smartphone Competition With Office For Android

Continuing its ’cloud first, mobile first’ strategy, Microsoft has released its top level suite of Office Apps for Android. Previously available as a ‘preview’, today’s release gives Word, Excel, and PowerPoint full application status on Android. The apps are available to download for free from the Google Play store (Word, Excel, and PowerPoint).
Microsoft’s Kirk Koenigsbauer Office Client Applications and Services VP) talks about the impact the preview process on the blog post announcing the updated apps.
“Five weeks ago, we announced the Office for Android phone preview. We are so grateful to our preview users, and with their help we were able to test the apps on over 1,900 different Android phone models in 83 countries. During the preview, we heard from thousands of these users, and over the last few weeks we were able to incorporate a lot of their feedback into the apps we’re launching today. For example, we made it easier to connect to other popular third-party storage offerings like Google Drive and Box, as well as many usability adjustments to make it easier to navigate commands within the apps.
No doubt there will be an extensive internal change-list with fixes, tweaks, and squashed bugs, but the commitment to work with ‘third party storage offerings’ such as Google Drive caught my eye. This is not the Microsoft of old. The Microsoft of old would not have even considered full-blown Office clients for iOS or Android. Standalone read-only viewers, yes, but to give full access to the crown jewels without being exclusively in Microsoft’s sphere of influence would be a step too far.
Perhaps it would have been a step too far for Ballmer, but not for current CEO Satya Nadella. These steps are the exact steps he wants Microsoft to talk, moving the focus of the company from a hardware-led solution to one that focuses on cloud services and being in every location where a consumer could find them.
Given the smartphone market share that Microsoft has, that means heading out to Android and iOS. It also means being on the web and open to significant interaction on other platforms such as OSX on the desktop and Box in the cloud storage sphere.
This ethos was also on show over the weekend as the OneNote team debuted new features for the cloud-based note-taking client on iOS, with other platforms to follow in the future.
Much like freemium based gaming, the goal will be to convert these free downloads into purchases of Microsoft’s online services such as extra storage in the OneDrive cloud, or a subscription to Office365 for increased support and functionality. That a certain percentage of users will always stay with the free option is something that Microsoft will be comfortable with, as long as there’s enough income coming in from the digital whales.
Nadella has been in the CEO chair for sixteen months, and the changes and direction that he gave to Microsoft after his appointment in February 2014 have now worked through the internal structures and development timelines. I expect to see more of Microsoft putting cloud services ahead of every other consideration over the next few months.
Article by Ewan Spence

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