Microsoft Moves Away From Office Mobile

Posted on September 28, 2018 by Mehedi Hassan in Office 365 with 48 Comments

Office Mobile Goes Fluent on Windows 10 Insider Preview

With the launch of Office 2019, Microsoft introduced a new generation of Office apps earlier this week. On Windows and Mac, big changes are coming with the arrival of Office 2019. But for those on Windows 10, there are some big changes, too.

Going forward, Microsoft is going to deprioritize the development of its Office Mobile apps built specifically for Windows 10 and modern Windows devices. These apps work really well on Windows Phone devices, and they work as a “lightweight” alternative to the full-fledged Office apps on the desktop,

In an unsurprising move, Microsoft is now going to prioritize development of the Office apps on Android and iOS, as well as the Win32 and web versions of Office. Microsoft isn’t completely getting rid of these apps, though — instead, it will simply focus on the development of the full-fledged Office apps and the Office Online apps. The Office Mobile apps for Windows 10 are considered as “legacy” apps, reports Neowin

A Microsoft spokesperson clarified the company’s plans with ZDNet, stating “The Office mobile apps for Windows have not been deprecated. But for mobile, we are currently prioritizing development for the iOS and Android versions of our apps; and on Windows, we are prioritizing Win32 and web versions of our apps.”

The move was not surprising at all. Microsoft no longer needs to build Office apps specifically for Windows 10 devices as the full-fledged Office desktop apps are now available from the Microsoft Store on Windows devices. Plus, maintaining two different versions of the same apps for the same platform is simply a big waste of resources.

For those wondering, this doesn’t include the OneNote UWP app. It will continue to improve going forward.

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Comments (48)

48 responses to “Microsoft Moves Away From Office Mobile”

  1. pachi

    So do we know what the situation is regarding that new Surface Hub demo, which is running an OS that doesn't even run Win32 programs yet was running Word/Excel/etc? I feel like that sort of ties into this news.

    • locust infested orchard inc

      In reply to pachi:

      Good point. The OS in question was Windows Core OS. But as for the applications Powerpoint and Excel, I'm not sure – Win32, UWP, or possibly some new unknown class of executable wrapped around Win32 to give applications native touch-centric capabilities ?

  2. bart

    I hope this is the start of MS consolidating apps now that UWP seems to be a dead end. Ie. I would love MS to get rid of the Mail/Calendar/People apps in Windows 10 and go forward with PWA’s to replace them.

  3. plettza

    I thought the idea was to eventually move Office away from Win32 to UWP. More conclusive proof UWP is not really a priority anymore at Microsoft. They'll also be dropping the UWP Teams app from Windows Mobile 10 soon.

    The idea of UWP was a more fluid, responsive set of APIs, better power utilisation and better touch UIs. So it looks like we'll be stuck with Win32 a while longer.

  4. harmjr

    This is so surprising. I am shocked. I tell you...

  5. mclark2112

    You read my mind, OneNote was my biggest question.

  6. Daekar

    This makes perfect sense. Hopefully a time will come when they can drop the native apps on iOS and Android, and have only desktop and web apps.

  7. jules_wombat

    And Microsoft wonder why the modern developer has given up on Windows development. They confuse us with their dilly dally direction on their platform development. So Microsoft does not believe there is any point for a touch based Office on WIndows?

    Oh Dear, yet another missed opportunity. Soon they will kill of UWP altogether.

  8. hrlngrv

    Other than for the remaining Windows phone users, NBD. Installing Office mobile apps on machines with large screens requires an Office 365 subscription, so they weren't free on PCs. Besides, if one has a PC and an Office 365 subscription, desktop Office would be better in most circumstances.

  9. dvdwnd

    Sooo...when are we going to hear about an Android sub system in Windows, then? This PWA thing is going nowhere, and I honestly think that it would be a more pleasant experience to use the Android version of Word on a Windows tablet than an (as of yet non-existent) PWA version.

    If fear of cannibalizing on UWP was ever the reason for burying the Astoria bridge for W10M back in the day, we can now safely conclude that that argument is no longer valid.

  10. navarac

    There seems a plethora of ignored, deprecated, and plain killed-off stuff coming out of Microsoft of late. The list gets longer than the good stuff being introduced.

  11. sevenacids

    So much irony in there: They sold everyone UWP as the future and tagged Win32 as "deprecated". It seemed they couldn't get rid of Win32 soon enough. And now...?

    I wonder why Microsoft builds so many technologies they don't believe in. WPF, the prequel of UWP, is one example. They didn't believe in its superior concepts and made it great until they started building huge parts of one of their all-time flagship products, Visual Studio, with it. But UWP, just a lame reincarnation of that, doesn't seem to get the same happy ending. I thought the plan was to replace the old Win32 applications with the UWP versions once they catched up functionality-wise. But I was wrong, I think.

    But maybe not. I mean, look at the Windows Runtime. The whole thing is built on ancient COM-concepts and so ugly under the covers, you wouldn't believe it. It works, but it leaves a bad taste no matter what.

  12. locust infested orchard inc

    Quote by Paul Thurrott, "Going forward, Microsoft is going to deprioritize the development of its Office Mobile apps built specifically for Windows 10 and modern Windows devices. These apps work really well on Windows Phone devices..."

    Oh !? Have I missed a spectacular Microsoft hardware announcement recently ? With the phrase "modern Windows device" and "Windows Phone devices" in the same paragraph in relation to Office Mobile apps, it appears I might have bizarrely missed the announcement of the decade. So what timeline did this announcement give for the launch of the much heralded Surface Foldable™ ?

    • skane2600

      In reply to locust infested orchard inc:

      I'm not sure I'm following your point. "modern Windows devices" could include the Surface Go since it runs only Store apps "out of the box". I wouldn't hold my breath for any unannounced products like a Surface Foldable to appear. 

      • locust infested orchard inc

        In reply to skane2600:

        I agree with both points you made regarding Surface Go as a "modern Windows device", and to not anticipate products that haven't been formally announced.

        But for sure it makes for sensational reading.

        That said, to what was Panos Panay referring to when he Tweeted the following picture in June 2018 at:

        Nobody really seems to know for sure, though many suspect it could be a reference the Surface Foldable™. So would sensational reading be a correct assessment of my comment, or a valid comment by virtue of Panos Panay's Tweet ?

        • skane2600

          In reply to locust infested orchard inc:

          Kind of looks like an old photo holder to me. I have no idea what kind of game he's playing, if in fact he's playing one at all, but such hinting by a high level executive wouldn't be very professional. What's happening to Elon Musk comes to mind.

          Without knowing much about the games that were actually going to be available on the Atari VCS, the marketing department put a chess game on the box. The developers were forced to create the game (despite the fact that it was a very difficult game to do on the Atari due to technical limitations) to avoid Atari getting sued.

          IMO, senior executives would do well to avoid twitter or at the very least, avoid anything that might suggest a future product they might not end up releasing.

  13. kenspencerbrown

    "For those wondering, this doesn’t include the OneNote UWP app. It will continue to improve going forward."


  14. Ron Diaz

    Bring out your dead...

  15. Rob_Wade

    And those desktop apps SUCK on touch screens. Idiots continue to rule at Microsoft.

    • PeteB

      In reply to Rob_Wade: And those desktop apps SUCK on touch screens. Idiots continue to rule at Microsoft.

      And the touch apps SUCK on desktops too.

      It's been an entire Metro/UWP era of suck.

    • SvenJ

      In reply to Rob_Wade: Agree wholeheartedly. I have no idea how MS can continue to provide lip service to touch and tablet interfaces and revert to prioritizing application UIs that didn't work in XP tablet edition and don't work today. I have both the 'Mobile' and O365 versions of Office installed on my Surface Go, so that I can use the appropriate software interface for the physical way I am using my device. If you want to see the difference clearly, split your screen, load Mobile word on one side and O365 on the other. Load the same document in each. Just use one of the templates offered when opening Word. The Mobile version scales, the menu items are visible and touchable. The O365 version can't even display the menu labels, UI elements are tiny, the window has both vertical and horizontal scroll bars. Slide the divider back and forth and watch how the Mobile version adapts, while the O365 version just gets worse. If MS doesn't put some effort into supporting applications that are actually usable on touch screen/tablets, they might as well concede that market to android and iOS along with mobile.

      • skane2600

        In reply to SvenJ:

        Your example perfectly illustrates the impracticality of a single build of a sophisticated program to run on multiple platforms. When you use your Surface Go like a laptop, O365 interface works best, when in tablet mode, the mobile version is superior. Trying to combine the two would result in a single UI that was less effective in both modes.

        Mobile-only devices are pretty much dead for Microsoft, so what should drive the decision on the mobile software is how important 2-in-1 devices are.

        As far as competing with android and iOS devices is concerned, the original Surface RT was the natural competitor of those other operating systems. Later Surface devices implicitly indicated that MS didn't think it could compete with a mobile interface alone. IMO, it's full Windows that made Surface devices successful.

        • SvenJ

          In reply to skane2600: It is becoming clearer every day that MS wants me to move to Apple. MS had a nice phone, but we all know how that went. In concert with deprecating that product, they put a lot of effort into MS applications, Office, Skype, etc, on iOS and Android. The Band was marginalized when the phone went away, though it was one of the first and few, cross platform smart wearables that did more than fitness. So moving to iOS or Android meant a move to Apple Watch or a Wear OS device. I have had various smaller touch/pen capable Windows devices over the years. HP Slate, Dell Venue, 8" ASUS tablet, Surface 3 and now the Go. All have been hampered by the dirth of really respectable apps that take advantage of the form factor and UI options. They just ran Windows and x86/64 apps. Even MS was negligent in creating compelling applications for these devices. There seemed to be some desire to correct that with Win 8/RT, UWP, store apps, beginning to acknowledge that touch and tablets do require more thought than 'make the buttons bigger'. Now we hear that MS's products that actually do start making sense on touch centric devices are going to focus on iOS and Android, clearly at the expense of Windows. MS on Windows will likely focus on what it always did, keyboard and mouse.

          If I want a good MS tablet experience, I need to buy an iPad. (or an Android tablet). So MS has driven me to an iPhone, an Apple Watch and an iPad. They essentially cancelled Groove, so iTunes made sense, considering. All that is left is my laptop, and why would I not gravitate to a Mac, given the rest of my ecosystem. I can tell you that the integration between my iOS devices and my MacOS devices is what Your Phone aspires to, and it already works, and it's polished. I can certainly still use MS services on the Mac, as I can on iOS, and maybe that's enough for MS. Heck I can even use O365 on my Mac directly without using some VM solution. I can make the same observations using Android, WearOS and Chrome OS on a Chromebook. I don't have the breadth of app support on Chrome OS as I do on MacOS, but for many (most?) consumer applications, it's enough. The Android Office apps on my PixelBook are perfectly functional if I need that sort of compatibility. So now that MS has driven me to iOS/MacOS or Android/ChromeOS, what's the point of Windows as an OS, outside of the enterprise?

          • skane2600

            In reply to SvenJ:

            IMO, Microsoft's mistake was trying to make Windows 8 into both a desktop and mobile OS. Instead they should have create a new, legacy-free, "best of breed" mobile OS. Neither iOS nor Android were designed to be multi-platform even if they are taking small steps in this direction after succeeding in the niche they were originally designed for.

            In some ways Windows 10 doubled-down on this mistake. Microsoft essentially discarded the vast majority of Windows phone users by bringing Windows 10 and UWP to a small subset of Windows phones. All to try to leverage UWP apps across multiple platforms which failed miserably. It's hard to identify any capability that UWP added to the WP that wasn't already present in WP8 or even WP7.

            Having said that, Windows still has millions of non-enterprise users and pure tablets don't appear to be successfully replacing PCs for those tasks that PCs are best suited for.

            • hrlngrv

              In reply to skane2600:

              Tangent: a core OS should be able to provide a reasonably common back-end across many different hardware device types. For the UI, it wouldn't hurt if there were a common subset of display/output objects available across all screen sizes. As for touch vs mouse/keyboard input, that's where I figure the greatest need for differentiation is and will remain.

              As for Windows 8, MSFT was likely correct in figuring that without a phone-PC tie-in, Windows phones stood no chance. Turns out they didn't have a chance even with such a tie-in, but there might have been an order of magnitude less chance of success without such a tie-in. At the very least, there was ZERO chance of generating developer interest in Windows phones without the nebulous possibility of using the same development model for PC software.

              The most damning thing I've read about Windows 10 is that many who came from Windows 8 touch devices find Windows 10's tablet mode one or more steps backwards from Windows 8. In short, MSFT gave up on phones and tablets which weren't tablet PCs. I figure OEMs simply gave up on the concept of small tablets running Windows 10 Mobile, and there's nothing MSFT could have done to alter that except making Surface-branded small tablets running Windows 10 Mobile. That MSFT hasn't stands as persuasive evidence even MSFT knows Windows has no future on small devices. Maybe some other MSFT-developed OS may have a place on small devices some day, but I'm not holding my breath.

              • skane2600

                In reply to hrlngrv:

                I guess I'd have to disagree with some of your conclusions. It think most experienced Windows developers recognized from the start that cross-platform Metro app development wasn't worth the effort so they avoided it. Metro apps on the desktop were at best redundant and at worst, inferior. That meant that Metro apps (or later UWP apps) were only important on the Windows Phone. Note also that there was no tie-in between OSX and iOS, and Android didn't have anything to tie to anyway. Obviously a tie-in was not a necessary factor to motivate developers to create mobile apps.

                I agree that Windows 8 was probably better than 10 for users operating in mobile mode. After the failure of Windows RT devices and the backlash against 8 on the desktop, Microsoft rejiggered the compromise between mobile and desktop to favor the desktop more. Despite that, Windows 10 on the desktop is still less than it could be by accommodating mobile and given the continued lack of demand for Windows mobile devices, that compromise isn't providing much benefit to Microsoft's bottom line.

                If Microsoft had real faith in Store Apps, the Surface Go would be locked into S mode forever, but it's not because Microsoft learned from it's RT experience that full Windows is required for a Windows device to succeed.

                • hrlngrv

                  In reply to skane2600:

                  . . . full Windows is required for a Windows device to succeed.

                  In no small part because of the Windows name. If an OS is called Windows, potential customers will expect it to run Windows (Win32) software, and there's nothing MSFT can do to change that. Sadly for MSFT, a new and differently named OS wouldn't produce enough revenue to justify the expense of its development nor establishing its brand presence.

                • skane2600

                  In reply to hrlngrv:

                  Again, I have to disagree. Android had no brand presence at the time it was introduced and it didn't stop it from being successful.

                  I would argue that combining the Metro app capability with the traditional Win32 environment was actually a more expensive option to implement than creating a separate OS and was far more complex. Remember I said "legacy free"? That means the OS wouldn't need any of the COM s**t or other early 90s technologies that Windows uses.

                • hrlngrv

                  In reply to skane2600:

                  Yes, we have to disagree. Android had no historical baggage in the late 2000s. By 2005 Windows had mountain ranges of historical baggage in the form of users' expectations, and that baggage only grew by 2010. Rather a significant difference.

                  IOW, Google could make Android anything it wanted, but MSFT couldn't do the same for Windows Phone/Mobile.

                • skane2600

                  In reply to hrlngrv:

                  My comment was in response to this: "Sadly for MSFT, a new and differently named OS wouldn't produce enough revenue to justify the expense of its development nor establishing its brand presence."

                  So Windows "baggage" has nothing to do with an OS not called "Windows" and Android history proves that not having an established OS brand isn't an impediment to introducing a new OS.

        • Rob_Wade

          In reply to skane2600:
          But that doesn't have to be the case. Office apps do have a "tablet mode", but it's a complete joke. That mode, which happens to be the mode I've always kept all my apps in, does nothing to improve the user experience if you are in a touch environment. But we keep hearing the rumors about "C-Shell"--which I think is vaporware--being the answer. Even Tablet Mode in Windows 10 itself is lame compared to Windows 8 on touch screens. They COULD have it morph itself into a truly touch-friendly user experience if they wanted to. But they don't want to. It's clear to me they only concerned with the desktop experience for business users and iOS-specific and Android-specific experiences for that ilk. The user experience with anything else touch-based is of virtually no concern.

  16. BlackForestHam

    UWP gets another kick in the groin.