8th August 2013
Back in June, Microsoft announced a version of Office 365 for the iPhone. It has now followed up the release of the iOS app with a version for Android. Whilst, as you would expect, neither of the apps offer all of the features of the full Office 365 suite, they provide a more than adequate feature set for mobile and mark a mobile milestone for Office users.
The Office Mobile apps allow users to view and edit their Word, Excel and PowerPoint documents. Documents can also be stored on SkyDrive and SharePoint, both of which allow for sharing and co-authoring of documents to different degrees. The presentation of documents is reworked for viewing on mobile screens – and, cleverly, any changes made to formatting will not break the formatting when a user comes to view them on a PC. Both apps require an ongoing Office 365 subscription – as is the way software licensing is headed.
The release of dedicated apps – and indeed the initial launch of Office 365 itself in 2011 – tilt at a broader trend of software packages moving to the cloud. It’s not a new phenomenon – well known services like Dropbox and Spotify are built entirely on a cloud-first premise. Adobe recently moved its creative suite online too. Microsoft Office, however, is perhaps the most ubiquitous software suite to begin offering cloud-based and mobile access.
There are a number of benefits to using cloud-based software. Your documents and files are, of course, available wherever you are and, as is the case with Office Mobile, front-end applications can be developed especially for mobile devices. Users also benefit from having access to the most recent versions of software as it is updated – a process that would previously have required downloading and installing the new version or, in yesteryear, buying the newly released version on CD-Rom.
The price for such convenience lies in the licensing. Where, previously, users would pay a one-off fee for a piece of software that could be used for as long as their computer would run it (or other people would tolerate it), now, monthly or annual subscriptions to ‘software-as-a-service’ are becoming the norm. This, of course, is a boon to software producers, who can count on continuous revenue streams from their users whilst seeing considerably reduced costs of production per user. What we’re seeing, ultimately, are delivery and pricing models changing to reflect the increasing accessibility of the Web.
The pros and cons of cloud-based software and the Office Mobile apps depend entirely on the circumstances of the individual. Light users of Microsoft Office may baulk at the idea of paying an ongoing subscription for a product they rarely use. Businesses, on the other hand, are increasingly capitalising on the benefits of cloud-based software and mobile apps. These delivery and pricing models are really only in their infancy, however, so we can expect them to mature as providers develop their understanding of what consumers and businesses will expect.
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