Just a week after it made preview versions of Office for Android tablets available, Microsoft has made non-preview versions of Word, Excel and PowerPoint for Android tablets available generally. These apps are free to consumers but require an Office 365 subscription for premium features, much like the Office for iPad apps that were released in 2014.
Microsoft intriguingly notes in its announcement that Office for Android tablets is “similar to Office for Windows 10,” which we can now assume is the official name for those apps. (And that name suggests that those touch-first Office apps will not be made available for Windows 8.x. But I digress.)
“Word, Excel and PowerPoint for Android tablets are built from the ground up for touch and are perfect for mobile productivity,” Microsoft’s Kirk Koenigsbauer writes in a new post to the Office Blogs. “The apps are designed for touch, on the go, and tuned for Android tablets.”
If you’re familiar with Office for iPad, you know the drill. These Office apps for Android tablets feature a ribbon-based user interface—basically a toolbar with tabs—that provides the most-frequently-needed commands for mobile users. And while you can absolutely connect a hardware keyboard to your Android tablet and use it with Office, these apps are also designed to work fine without a physical keyboard.
Microsoft told me in an earlier briefing that customers had downloaded the preview versions of these apps over 250,000 times during the preview period. And if you’re wondering why Microsoft’s Android apps are always released in preview mode first (whereas its iOS apps are just generally released) it’s because of the diversity of the Android hardware ecosystem: With the Office for Android tablets preview alone, the firm saw over 3,000 Android variants!
From a licensing perspective, Office for Android tablets is free for personal use and includes core editing functionality. But some premium features require an Office 365 subscription, and you will need a qualifying Office 365 subscription for editing and premium features when used in business.
Office for Android tablets requires an ARM-based Android tablet with 1 GB of RAM or more and Android 4.4.x (KitKat). And while it will run on Android 5.x (Lollipop), that is not supported yet (it will be soon). You will need a device with a 7-inch screen or bigger, though devices with 10.1-inch screens or bigger will require an Office 365 subscription to create or edit documents.
So looking forward, you can expect a few things.
Soon, official support for Android 5, of course. Native support for Intel-based Android tablets later in this quarter. And then later in 2015, Microsoft will replace the current Office Mobile app on Android with a set of apps, much like it did previously with iPhone. So by the end of 2015, we should see a consistent set of Office mobile apps across the three biggest modern mobile platforms: Android (phones and tablets), iOS (iPhone and iPad) and Windows 10.