I’m sure that many of our readers have some Microsoft software in their life. Microsoft Windows has been the standard operating of choice for many businesses large and small and Microsoft Office has been a staple document format for almost all of my computers since the mid-1990s, both full size, notebook sized and portable. And until recently, Microsoft have had at best a token appearance in the Android world, which meant that if we’ve needed to work with Microsoft document formats, we’ve had to rely on third party software solutions. Indeed, a whole cottage industry grew up based around working with Microsoft format files. Google bought QuickOffice primarily for the acquisition of their document formatting technologies and now Google Apps works nearly seamlessly with many Microsoft Word, PowerPoint and Excel format files.
In recent months, we’ve seen Microsoft launch beta version of Microsoft Word, Microsoft Excel and Microsoft PowerPoint for the Android platform. These were moved out of beta in early February. And if you’ve used any of these Microsoft applications on a Windows product, you’ll feel immediately at home using the Android application. This shortens the learning curve; the release of the three Microsoft productivity applications is significant and deserves much more than a few lines in this article, so it’s something I’ll be covering in greater detail in another article.
Better yet, Microsoft have made these applications free. Yes, that’s right: you can get Microsoft Office for some Android Tablets free of charge. You’ll need an Android tablet running Android 4.4 or later, with 1 GB of RAM and a screen size of at least 7.0-inch. You’ll also need a Microsoft Account in order to use the applications and integrate a cloud storage solution, currently Microsoft’s own OneDrive and Dropbox work well. If you’ve switched to Google Drive, you’re out of luck as it isn’t supported by Office (and it doesn’t accept Office format documents passed through to Office, either, which appears to be something of a Microsoft-imposed limitation). For the premium service, which is Office 365, customers will need to pay a regular subscription. This includes access to Microsoft Office 2013, which you can download and install onto a desktop computer as well as using it on mobile devices. I won’t go into the details of Office 365 as it merits it’s own article, plus I’ll be covering it in my review of the HP Stream 7 Windows 8.1 tablet, too.
Why would Microsoft decide to give Microsoft Office away? Partially, it’s because there are so many competitor products that can handle Office format documents as well as the real deal and partially it’s because Microsoft have realized that it’s a better business practice to sell consumers something that they want (Office) regardless of an operating system, rather than pushing an operating system onto customers who don’t really want it (Windows Phone). It took them four years and they had to buy their own handset manufacturer, Nokia, to reach this conclusion. We’re also seeing other changes at Microsoft, where Windows is being recognized as a less important product for the business going forwards and Windows 10 is going to be a free upgrade for many customers.
However, the real beauty behind Office is how well it integrates with a cloud storage system. If you use Dropbox or OneDrive, regardless of whatever platform(s) you use, you can have access to your data across many different computers. This is a compelling reason to at least give the Microsoft offerings a trial if you are already a user of Microsoft Office.