Office for Android now widely available, with new Outlook apps in tow

Microsoft steps up push to get its software on to all tablets and smartphones

Microsoft has made its Word, Excel and Powerpoint apps for Google's Android OS generally available, and also released new Outlook apps for Android and Apple's iOS.

All three Office apps are available for download from Google's Play store. The launch is a part of Microsoft's strategy to become more cross-platform friendly across its entire portfolio of applications and services.

That there is an interest was already proved when the company launched Office apps for Apple's iPads in March last year. Also, the preview versions for Android were downloaded 250,000 times, according to Microsoft.

The Android versions of Word, Excel and Powerpoint have inherited the touch-friendly look and feel of the iOS versions. Large touch points make it easy for even the fattest of fingers to navigate commands, Microsoft said in a blog post on Thursday.

For Microsoft, the apps are step in the right directions as it tries to appease Android users.

"While the company is playing catch up to Google in the Android tablet space, it's stepped on the pedal and isn't far behind. It just needs to keep cranking out the features and honing in on making its cloud performance rapid and reliable," Greenbot said in a generally positive hands-on review of the final versions.

All three apps are compatible with Android 4.4, also known as KitKat. They also work on tablets running Android 5.0 or Lollipop, but there will be no official support until Microsoft puts out a software update. The apps also require an ARM processor until Microsoft puts out an update for Intel processors, which will come within a quarter.

For consumers, basic functionality for creating and editing documents is free as long as their tablet isn't bigger than 10.1 inches, while premium features require an Office 365 subscription. Those who own a tablet with a screen size greater than 10.1 inches -- such as the Galaxy Tab S, which has a 10.5-inch screen -- need an Office 365 subscription to use the apps.

For commercial use, employees need an Office 365 subscription for editing as well as premium features.

On Thursday, Microsoft also announced the release of Outlook for iOS and a preview of Outlook for Android.

The iOS version of Outlook is ahead of the Android version in terms of features and performance. Once Microsoft has completed sufficient work on Android to close the gap it will remove the Preview label, Microsoft said in a blog post.

The apps offer customizable swipe gestures, allowing users to swipe right or left to take actions like archive, delete, move, flag, mark as read or unread. There is also predictive search and a calendar that's available within the app, according to Microsoft.

The apps separate e-mails using two tabs -- Focused and Other. Important mails are meant to appear in the Focused inbox, while the rest remain accessible under the Other tab. The users interfaces are adaptive to fit better on larger devices like the iPad and Android tablets.

The launch is a result of Microsoft's acquisition of Acompli at the end of last year, which was sign that the company had finally decided to take Outlook on smartphones and tablets seriously. The apps released on Thursday will replace OWA for iPhones, iPads and Android as well as Outlook.com Android app.

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Mikael Ricknäs

IDG News Service
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