Office 365 for Mobiles

After a long time of silence and not really useful offers Microsoft released it’s product Office Mobile for Office 365 subscribers on June 18, 2013. Microsoft’s description starts with this hint:

Please note: An office 365 subscription is required to use this app.

Users who first want to try out the features of this app and to check whether it’s more powerful than Apple’s iWork suite first have to subscribe to Office 365. Beside many other faults Microsoft made when trying to get a foothold in the mobile market here is the next ‘MSID’.

Traction -everybody knows this from race cars- is vital to success. Launching without sufficient traction seems to be an ongoing fault of Microsoft. Instead of showing the world that the mobile Office suite is an awesome app compared to Apple’s iWork suite the company first collects money even from users who don’t want or need a subscription of Office 365 for about 100$ per year with additional 20 GB space on SkyDrive, licenses for up to 5 PCs or Macs and 5 mobile devices (other than devices already running with Windows Mobile), and permanent updating to the latest versions of the Office Suite.

The offer is worth buying for users of Microsoft products.
But for consumers and BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) users, Office 365’s appeal has been somewhat less clear. Millions use older versions of Office running on their home computers, and for the majority of tasks, these aging editions are still adequate. Unless one needs to sync content across devices via SkyDrive, or have access to documents while on-the-go, many of the newest versions’ enhancements simply won’t warrant an upgrade.

Even for new customers, Office 365 might not appeal. People who use Office on only one machine, and who aren’t concerned about immediate upgrades, could also save money by buying the standalone version of Office 2013.

Microsoft wants to stimulate upgrades, and would rather that customers opt for subscriptions, which provide a perpetual revenue stream. I think the contrary will be the case. All those interested have no chance to evaluate the product without paying in advance.


Microsoft accents that Office Mobile is a lightweight version of its desktop equivalent, not meant for in-depth content creation so much as document review, collaboration, and annotation. The new product certainly enhances capabilities of iOS devices, but much of what it offers was either already available out of the box (e.g. DocsToGo by DataViz), or through a series of workarounds. Most of the available iOS apps already allow users to view most types of Office file formats and mobile device management companies already offer iOS users the ability to access and annotate SharePoint files.

Office for mobiles goes beyond and simplifies these earlier solutions, of course, adding not only true document editing capabilities but also useful syncing features, such as the ability to begin working on a document on a PC, leave and seamlessly resume work on a mobile device with a UI fit in with the form factor of a smartphone and a tablet.

The features of Office 365 mobile …

General …

Microsoft Office Mobile is the official Office companion optimized for the iPhone. You can access, view and edit your Microsoft Word, Excel, and PowerPoint documents from virtually anywhere. Documents look like the originals, thanks to support for charts, animations, SmartArt graphics and shapes. When you make quick edits or add comments to a document, the formatting and content remain intact.

Details …

  • Cloud
    With your phone, you can access Office documents that are stored on SkyDrive, SkyDrive Pro, or SharePoint.
  • Recent Documents
    Office Mobile is cloud connected.
    The documents you’ve recently viewed on your computer are readily available on your phone in the recent documents panel.
  • E-Mail Attachments
    You can view and edit Office documents attached to email messages.
  • Optimized for phone
    Word, Excel and PowerPoint have been optimized for the small screen of your phone.
  • Resume Reading
    When opening a Word document from SkyDrive or SkyDrive Pro on your phone, it automatically resumes at the place where you left off reading, even if you last viewed the document on your PC or tablet.
  • Presentation Views
    The Slide Navigator view in PowerPoint lets you browse slides faster, while speaker notes help you practice your presentation.
  • Edit
    You can make quick edits to Word, Excel and PowerPoint documents.
  • Documents Remain Intact
    Formatting and content remain intact when you edit Word, Excel, or PowerPoint documents on your phone.
  • Edit While Offline
    Your device doesn’t have to be continuously connected to the network to work on an Office document that is stored online.
    You can view and edit recently used documents even while you’re offline. Your changes will be saved online when your device reconnects to the network or to WiFi.
  • Create
    You can create new Word and Excel documents on your phone.
  • Comments
    You can review comments that have been made in Word and Excel documents on your phone and add your own comments.
  • Share
    When you’re done with your edits or comments, simply send the document in E-Mail or save it to SkyDrive or SharePoint.

Requirements …

  • An Office 365 subscription is required to use this app.
  • Compatible with iPhone 4, 4S, and 5, iPod Touch 5th Generation. Requires iOS 6.1 or later.
  • Microsoft Office 2013 on a PC is needed for features like recent documents and resume reading.
  • Office 365 account and setup necessary. Data connection required. Storage limits and carrier fees apply.

All this already was offered by Apple when launching iCloud in October 12, 2011. As of April 2013, Apple’s service has 320 million users! With the launch of iOS 7 in 2013 iWork for iCloud will be presented. This service enables you to edit all iWork documents by just using a browser.

See this mind map summarizing the comparison of Office 365 and Apple’s iWork suite.


Feel free to download this mind map.

The alternative file formats have been created with iThoughts HD for iPad (.ITMZ file format). Compatibility to other tools is limited.

Application File format
Adobe Reader PDF
iThoughts ITMZ
MindManager MMAP

An alternative …

When it comes to compatibility issues between Microsoft Office and Apple iWork documents it might be useful to install an app which is capable to manage and edit Microsoft file formats (usually Excel, Word, and Powerpoint documents). But there is still no need to subscribe for Office 365.

CloudOn …

CloudOn, Inc., USA
CloudOn is ready to work when and where you are. It puts Microsoft Office® on your favorite devices (iOS and Android) and provides access to the files you already store in the cloud with Box, Dropbox, Google Drive and Microsoft SkyDrive. And, with the ability to better create, manage and share your work all from a single workspace it’s a can’t-live-without-it productivity solution you and your team can depend on.


The features of CloudOn …

With cloud on you can manage Microsoft Excel, Word, and Powerpoint documents by using the original version of Microsoft Office on your touchscreen.

CloudOn works with the original version of Microsoft Office which is not adapted for touchscreens. So it’s no real alternative except for simple editing or just displaying of a document and annotating it.

There are some other apps available in Apple’s App Store like DocsToGo by DataViz Inc., USA with a lot of experience on developing apps for Apple’s mobiles. All these apps are much more cheaper than an Office 365 subscription and do what they should do. DocsToGo connects to Dropbox, Box, SugarSync, and GoogleDrive. Unfortunately connections cannot be established via FTP and WebDAV.


Summary …

People who work frequently with Microsoft products but nevertheless use Apple’s iPad as the mobile device should use Microsoft’s Office 365 but only if there is an iPad version available for this product. When writing the article at the end of July 2013 Office 365 was only available for the iPhone or by using the 2x-Zoom on an iPad which is definitely not a suitable solution.

CloudOn uses Microsoft’s original controls, not adapted for touchscreens and is only a good choice for simple editing but not for creating more complex documents.

DocsToGo would be my suggestion if the user’s environment is primarily built up with other Microsoft products. It helps to avoid compatibility issues which occur when saving Apple’s iWork documents in Microsoft Office formats.

Related links …


Microsoft Office 365

Roadtest on beyondmobileltd

DocsToGo by DataViz Inc.

Apple iWork

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