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Preview: Microsoft Office for Android makes up for (some) lost time

JR Raphael | Jan. 16, 2015
Microsoft announced an open preview of sorts for the Android tablet-friendly versions of its Word, Excel, and PowerPoint apps last week.

The best overall office suite on Android today, OfficeSuite 8 Premium, offers the same basic functionality as Microsoft's apps and then some, including broader cloud storage support, the ability to save to a wider variety of file formats, PDF viewing and editing, and password protection for files — all with a superior UI that's more intuitive and easier to use than Microsoft's effort. It works equally well on phones as it does on tablets, while Microsoft's phone-based app remains pitifully lackluster. (For some reason, Microsoft has opted to maintain separate phone and tablet apps for Android instead of developing a single app that scales intelligently to devices of any size, as the platform is designed to support.)

In their current incarnation, Microsoft's new Android-tablet-focused Office apps are fine — pretty good, even. They're only a small step behind the company's iPad-based equivalents, which add in a rudimentary system for multiuser collaboration. But unless your business is dead-set on using official Microsoft software only, it's hard to get excited over "pretty good" when excellent options are available — and those options are fully compatible with Office standards and deliver consistently compelling experiences on phones and tablets alike.

For Microsoft's apps to matter to anyone other than hardcore or myopic Office devotees, they need to offer something meaningfully better than — or at the very least on par with — what's already out there. Unless we see significant changes from these preview versions to the final consumer builds, I'm not sure they'll be up to the task.


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