Office webs apps as PWAs?

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Should the Mobile versions of Office on Windows, Android, and iOS be done away and replaced with PWA versions of Word, Excel, Powerpoint, OneNote and so on, and has the option of either free versions with limitations and ones for Office 365 subscribers that are fully featured? Why or why not? What do you all think? Also can a thing like this even be done?

Comments (22)

22 responses to “Office webs apps as PWAs?”

  1. Daekar

    I expect that the current web apps can be redone as PWAs and offer enhanced performance and functionality. If done well enough, they might render the current Android and iOS apps superfluous. I don't believe that they can, at this time, replace the full version of the Office apps with a PWA format.

    • hrlngrv

      In reply to Daekar:

      A bit of a tangent: Excel has a moderately used feature called array formulas. Entering them requires holding down [Ctrl] and [Shift] keys before pressing [Enter] (under Windows, usual [Cmd] for [Ctrl] change on Macs). To date that's possible using UWP/mobile Excel but not web Excel. Which leads me to wonder whether there are any limitations on browsers handling [Ctrl], [Cmd], [Alt], [Shift], [Fn], [whatever] shifted keystrokes. If there are such limitations, there's going to be a substantial class of desktop software that at best would need to be significantly reengineered to become PWAs.

  2. lordbaal1

    Isn't 365 available on the web already?

    • Daekar

      In reply to lordbaal1:

      Yes, but I don't believe it's technically a PWA, nor is that version available in the Store. If they were PWA-ized, you'd be able to run them like apps, they would be faster and more responsive, and you'd be able to install them from the Microsoft Store.

      • Dan1986ist

        In reply to Daekar:

        Maybe if PWA versions of Office do happen on Windows, iOS, and Android, those could be the free version. And those who need all the bells and whisles in the desktop version of Office, could do so through an Office 365, as many of us do now. This could also benefit Chromebook users, who I believe have to have an Office 365 sub to use the current Android apps, if larger than a specific size, just edit file in the Office apps.

  3. Simard57

    that doesn't come for free so what is the business case justification to invest in rewriting apps as PWA unless it lowers their support costs at some point through reducing the versions requiring support.

    • Dan1986ist

      In reply to Simard57:

      let's recap here: there is the Win32 non-store version of Office, the Win32 office apps in the microsoft store, the UWP Office apps in windows 10, the OS X version, the Android tablet and phone version of Office, the iOS one, to name a few. That is seven different SKUs of office right there. Unless there are some I'm missing.

      What I'm asking is, if the Android, ios, and Windows 10 UWP versions could be done away with and replaced with PWAs that have one codebase per app and takes advantage of that particular os' features? Not suggesting doing away with the Win32 or Apple OS X versions by the way.

      • skane2600

        In reply to Dan1986ist:

        Another name for "takes advantage of that particular os' features" is incompatibility.

        • Daekar

          In reply to skane2600:

          Have you been paying attention to anything about PWAs?

          • skane2600

            In reply to Daekar:

            Yes, the hype is difficult to avoid. Just another in a long line of "universal" approaches that always fail. But if you can explain why a program that has different features on different platforms enjoys full compatibility, I'm all ears.

            • Daekar

              In reply to skane2600:

              I would expect that the code deployed to all machines would have small amounts of code relevant to different platforms, so that you'd get the whole package and just run the APIs specific to your machine. That would achieve write once run everywhere.

              • skane2600

                In reply to Daekar:

                The internal details (specific API calls) don't matter as you suggest, but OS-specific features made available to some platforms and not the others is a different matter.

                • Daekar

                  In reply to skane2600:

                  Apologies, as a non-programmer I think I sometimes get things a bit mixed up. As you say, the calls to the OS-specific features rather than APIs. Those of other platforms would simply not execute if they didn't apply to what you were using, but they could remain in there. I expect that those features are small enough that such a thing wouldn't slow down the final product much... does that sound realistic?

                • skane2600

                  In reply to Daekar:

                  I think it all depends on one's definition of WORE. To me it means a single codebase that doesn't have any platform-specific code or resources (such as images or icons) that works identically on every platform. The user would then have the expectation that anything they could do on one platform, they could do on any of the others. It would imply that the developer wouldn't even be thinking about the different platforms. They would just develop on the platform of choice and expect it would work on all the other ones.

  4. wright_is

    I doubt it, not as long as Microsoft are trying to keep UWP alive - maybe we will here more today...

    But it wouldn't make sense to put PWA versions in the app store, for example, when they are still trying to push UWP. And neither is, yet, an alternative to the fat client.

    • hrlngrv

      In reply to wright_is:

      Excel is the only part of Office I've had personal experience using in most of its guises: Windows desktop, Mac desktop, web app, UWP mobile app. If Windows desktop Excel is 10, Mac is 8, web is 6 and UWP is at best 3. A PWA version of Excel which could adapt to phone-size screens would kill off Excel Mobile.

      That said, unless the UWP mobile version is critically necessary to the Android and iOS mobile versions, it's quite difficult to see any rational purpose to the UWP mobile version's continued existence. Last I checked, users needed an Office 365 account in order to install UWP Office apps on Windows machines with 8" (203mm) and larger screens, so there's little cost savings, and there are few if any Windows tablets currently on the market with smaller screens. Are there even 10 million monthly (as in launching any UWP Office app once a month) users? Unlikely. So what niche does UWP Office fill? Hedge against an unlikely future in which MSFT is #1 in mobile?

      • skane2600

        In reply to hrlngrv:

        But a PWA version has the potential to be a niche product as well.

        • hrlngrv

          In reply to skane2600:

          Raises the question whether Office on phones (running Android and iOS) are just niches. I figure they are. However, if the alternative from MSFT's perspective is that people get used to using anything other than Office to view and perhaps lightly edit Word and Excel files, then such niches are still must-hold territory.

          • skane2600

            In reply to hrlngrv:

            It's not an either/or situation. MS can continue to support an Office "light" for Android and IOS while still maintaining a full version for Windows. Both can be accomplished without the need for a PWA version.


            On the other hand it's not clear that being unable to lightly edit an Office file on a smartphone will impact Office's market share at all. What is the competing office suite that has a light edit function on smartphones and a full suite for Windows and the Mac?

            • hrlngrv

              In reply to skane2600:

              MSFT currently maintains at least 4 and possibly 5 versions, or feature sets, of Office. Most features in Windows desktop Office, next in Mac desktop Office (missing PowerQuery, PowerBI, crappy VBA Editor, some object model omissions compared to Windows), then Office web apps, and finally mobile versions (I've only used the UWP version on a Windows PC, so I don't know how Android and iOS versions compare).

              The web apps would be a significant increase in features compared to the UWP version (with the exception of array formulas in Excel). If those could be converted into PWAs, they'd still be much lighter than desktop versions for Windows and Mac. Are Android and iOS versions really better than the web version if it could become PWA?

              Many products can lightly edit .DOCX and .XLSX files, probably .PPTX too (dunno, don't care). I doubt MSFT wants to share any mindshare with any of them on phones even if none of them have PC desktop versions.

              • skane2600

                In reply to hrlngrv:

                I'm not a fan of UWP apps but I can't see any reason why a PWA version could do something better. MS hasn't made a full-featured version of Office using UWP and they might create an equally weak PWA. It's really more a matter of effort and choice than fundamental capabilities.


                Ultimately PWA's are limited by the capabilities of the underlying platform (perhaps indirectly through the platform's browser) so at best they can match native apps but they cannot exceed them. Of course if a vendor intentionally chooses to make an inferior native app than the PWA could be superior, but that's a strategic choice not a technology one.

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