Office 365 is mobile, but not mobile enough

Microsoft could dominate if it developed native Office 2010 Mobile apps for iOS and Android.

One of the most compelling aspects of Office 365 -- aside from its overall value -- is that you can access it from virtually anywhere. Because it is delivered from the cloud, the tools and services in Office 365 are not tied to a single PC or device, and data can be accessed from or synced among a desktop PC, the Web, and your smartphone...assuming you have a Windows Phone 7 smartphone.

Microsoft may be trying to create a value proposition to drive adoption of Windows Phone 7 by ensuring it has a uniquely integrated experience for mobile business productivity. But, whether it's because Microsoft is cocky or foolish is irrelevant: The fact remains that Microsoft is missing a prime opportunity to firmly establish Office 365 as the de facto mobile productivity suite, just as Microsoft Office is the dominant productivity suite for PCs.

Yes, it is possible to use the Web-based tools from an iPhone or Android smartphone, or from an iPad or other tablet PC. But, "possible" can be a far stretch from "optimal." What Microsoft needs to do is create Office Mobile 2010 for other mobile platforms.

While Office 365 works just fine from a variety of browsers including Internet Explorer, Firefox, or Safari, the version of Safari in iOS is not supported. When logging in to the Office 365 on an iPhone 4, you get a sort of warning message first. It explains that the browser you are using may not render Office 365 pages properly, and as a result some features may not function properly.

Once logged in, Office 365 appears just as it does on a PC Web browser. Outlook functions as it should, letting you send, receive, compose, and view email messages. The calendar and contacts features of Outlook also work properly.

However, things get derailed a bit if you try to use the other Office 365 tools from an iPhone. Using the Office 365 Beta, I got a message stating "The following URL is not mobile supported" when trying to open the Word, PowerPoint, or OneNote Web apps. Clicking Excel from my iPhone seemed to open the Web app, but all it does is display a red X with the message, "The workbook cannot be opened". But, I also got errors when trying to create files in the Word, PowerPoint, or OneNote apps from my Windows 7 PC (although Excel worked).

The iPad appears not to have the limitations that the iPhone does. Working with Office 365 from the Apple tablet was no different than working with Office 365 from Internet Explorer 9 on Windows 7. So, at least in that respect Office 365 seems to be functional on mobile device other than Windows Phone 7.

Even if all that is ironed out and you can technically use the Office Web Apps from a smartphone, it is not ideal. The thing is, using a Web interface on a mobile device -- especially a smartphone -- is simply nowhere near as smooth and effective as a well-written app. For a perfect example, try using Facebook from the Safari browser on the iPhone, then use the Facebook app. The difference is night and day.

Office 365 is a formidable rival for Google Apps for Business, and it may fair just fine as is. But, if Microsoft invested its considerable resources to develop native apps for dominant mobile platforms like the iPhone, iPad, and Android smartphones and tablets it could easily dominate mobile productivity rather than just compete.

Join the Good Gear Guide newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags tablet PCapplicationsMicrosoftproductivitywindows phone 7softwaremicrosoft officeData management

Our Back to Business guide highlights the best products for you to boost your productivity at home, on the road, at the office, or in the classroom.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Tony Bradley

PC World (US online)
Show Comments

Essentials

Lexar® JumpDrive® S57 USB 3.0 flash drive

Learn more >

Microsoft L5V-00027 Sculpt Ergonomic Keyboard Desktop

Learn more >

Mobile

Lexar® JumpDrive® S45 USB 3.0 flash drive 

Learn more >

Exec

Lexar® JumpDrive® C20c USB Type-C flash drive 

Learn more >

Audio-Technica ATH-ANC70 Noise Cancelling Headphones

Learn more >

HD Pan/Tilt Wi-Fi Camera with Night Vision NC450

Learn more >

Lexar® Professional 1800x microSDHC™/microSDXC™ UHS-II cards 

Learn more >

Budget

Back To Business Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Azadeh Williams

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

A smarter way to print for busy small business owners, combining speedy printing with scanning and copying, making it easier to produce high quality documents and images at a touch of a button.

Andrew Grant

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

I've had a multifunction printer in the office going on 10 years now. It was a neat bit of kit back in the day -- print, copy, scan, fax -- when printing over WiFi felt a bit like magic. It’s seen better days though and an upgrade’s well overdue. This HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 looks like it ticks all the same boxes: print, copy, scan, and fax. (Really? Does anyone fax anything any more? I guess it's good to know the facility’s there, just in case.) Printing over WiFi is more-or- less standard these days.

Ed Dawson

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

As a freelance writer who is always on the go, I like my technology to be both efficient and effective so I can do my job well. The HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 Inkjet Printer ticks all the boxes in terms of form factor, performance and user interface.

Michael Hargreaves

Windows 10 for Business / Dell XPS 13

I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.

Aysha Strobbe

Windows 10 / HP Spectre x360

Ultimately, I think the Windows 10 environment is excellent for me as it caters for so many different uses. The inclusion of the Xbox app is also great for when you need some downtime too!

Mark Escubio

Windows 10 / Lenovo Yoga 910

For me, the Xbox Play Anywhere is a great new feature as it allows you to play your current Xbox games with higher resolutions and better graphics without forking out extra cash for another copy. Although available titles are still scarce, but I’m sure it will grow in time.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?