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Microsoft Gets Free on Office Mobile Apps, Shakes Up Status Quo

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Microsoft Gets Free on Office Mobile Apps, Shakes Up Status Quo

November 07, 2014
By Doug Mohney
Contributing Editor

A day after Microsoft offered a free, and more fully functioning versions of Word, Excel, and PowerPoint on Apple (News - Alert) iOS and Google Android devices. Word for iOS grabbed the number two spot among free apps on Apple's App store. If there's an afterlife, Steven Jobs must be saying something funny right now.

Microsoft (News - Alert) Word iOS drops squarely between Facebook Messenger at number one and Facebook at number three among free Apple apps.  No longer do you need an Office 365 subscription to view, edit, and create files, but more advanced editing features will require one. For example, users aren't able to switch documents from landscape to portrait mode or modify column formatting without a paid subscription.

It will be more interesting to see how much the newly juiced up freebie Office apps lead to the end game of paid subscribers for Office 365.  Microsoft has to discover the fine line between not offering enough functionality in a free app—thereby discouraging use—and offering just enough to get more users working with it and willing to shell out $6.99 to $9.99 per month for the whole package.

And the whole package is getting to be pretty compelling.  Office 365 Personal at $6.99 per month includes fully installed Office Applications on one PC or Mac, one tablet and one Phone (News - Alert), a whopping 1 TB (yes, a Terabyte) of online cloud storage, 60 minutes of Skype world minutes per month and Microsoft support via phone or chat.  Office Home 365 provides up to five PCs or Macs, five tablets, and five phones for $9.99 per month, plus you get throw-ins of OneNote, Outlook, Publisher and Access for Windows platforms.

Dropbox (News - Alert) Pro offers 1 TB of storage without the Microsoft software access for $9.99/month, which has to make you wonder why Dropbox just announced a strategic deal with Microsoft for tighter integration between Office software and Dropbox storage.

 Why do you even need Dropbox if you get a TB of storage from Microsoft as a part of Office 365? Either A) You've already shelled out for expensive licenses for Office and/or can't stand the idea of paying Microsoft a monthly fee on principle or B) You don't like to keep all your eggs, er, bits in one basket, so Dropbox Pro looks to be a good backup solution in case Azure has a bad cloud day.

Stats aren't out yet if Microsoft has made the same impact over on Google (News - Alert) Play store, but I doubt it.  Android types have Google Docs and other free choices available that offer as good to better functionality than the Microsoft-free counterparts, while Apple ceded heavy lifting business productivity apps—Word, Excel, PowerPoint—to Microsoft decades ago.

Everyone should keep in mind that Microsoft is still evolving its strategy to mobile and the cloud, so we shouldn't be surprised to see another "adjustment" in strategy with more features every quarter or every other quarter.  The company has built a cloud infrastructure bigger than that of Amazon's and it has a lot of work to do to fill up all the cycles and storage that it has deployed around the globe. 

Edited by Maurice Nagle

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