“This is not a small change.”
Those were the words of John Case, Microsoft’s VP of Office Marketing, this morning, according to the New York Times. Microsoft announced today that they are “Bringing Office to everyone.” How so? Let’s look at the details:
To begin, let’s review where things stood yesterday… In March, Microsoft announced “Office for iPads” which as I explained in my blog post a few months ago was a bit of a misnomer. Really what happened was Microsoft released iPad apps for Word, Excel, and PowerPoint. Although the apps were free, the free version gave you only “read only” rights. If you wanted to edit the files and save them, you had to sign up for an Office 365 subscription.
So what changed today? First, Microsoft is now offering Word, Excel, and PowerPoint for the iPhone and it is offering a preview of Office for Android. You can now use Office programs on more devices. The new iPhone apps for Word, Excel, and PowerPoint are replacing the old “Office Mobile” app.
Second (and this is what all the buzz is about) Microsoft is updating its apps for the iPad. The biggest change is that the free version is no longer “read only.” You can now create and edit documents, spreadsheets, and presentations on the free version of the app. And since the app is designed for both the iPad and the iPhone, this ability to edit is also included on the free iPhone app. In some ways, you can say that Microsoft is finally offering Office for free.
However, let’s not go crazy here. Indeed, “this is not a small change” and it could have some ramifications for Microsoft down the road. (After all, if you can get it for free on your iPad, why would you pay for it on your PC?) Microsoft still locked down several functions in the free version of the app, specifically around formatting changes. You can edit the content, but you can’t do anything fancy — and by “fancy” I mean stuff like switching the page orientation from landscape to portrait or changing the coloring of the cells within a spreadsheet (things that could potentially drive us perfectionists insane). Diabolical! So you will still need to buy a subscription to get full functionality. John Chase explains it like this:
“Office 365 subscribers will continue to benefit from the full Office experience across devices with advanced editing and collaboration capabilities, unlimited OneDrive storage, Dropbox integration and a number of other benefits.”
There’s one other thing that has not changed, and if you are a business owner or the director of an IT department, you need to take note. Your employees who are using the free version of Word, Excel, and PowerPoint do not have the right to create and edit documents for business purposes. I checked out the licensing agreement for Microsoft Word 1.2, Excel 1.2, and PowerPoint 1.2 for the iPhone and iPad and found this restriction:
“As allowed by the software…you may also create, edit or save documents for non-commercial purposes.”
Things don’t get any better when your employees use the in-app purchase option since they can only sign up for the “Home” or “Personal” versions of Office 365 through that route. Those versions do not include the right for business use. They are for “home use” only.
So what should you do? Sign your employees up for one of the Office 365 business plans! According to the information posted in the iTunes store, qualifying business plans of Office 365 include: Business, Business Premium, Small Business Premium, Midsize Business, Enterprise E3, and Enterprise E4. With a subscription to these plans, you stay compliant with Microsoft when your employees are using their apps for business purposes, your employees can take advantage of the full feature set within the apps and they can use the many other benefits included in these plans.
So that’s the deal. Welcome to the new world. Microsoft is offering Office for free now, but only to consumers for personal, non-commercial use. They still aren’t giving it away for business use. Don’t delete the MS Office line item on your 2015 budget just yet.
Here’s some helpful links if you’re looking for more information:
Links to New Apps
The iPad and iPhone apps for Word, Excel, and PowerPoint are available in the iTunes Store.
You can sign up for the Office for Android preview here: http://aka.ms/signupnow
New York Times (a tad bit sensationalized): http://www.nytimes.com/2014/11/07/technology/microsoft-to-give-away-mobile-version-of-office-software.html?vh=f0309b9b2c3768f83549bceaf79768078700cac6&ts=1415288092
Mary Jo Foley’s Blog (a balanced and intelligent analysis, as usual): http://www.zdnet.com/microsoft-refreshes-office-for-ipad-iphone-more-features-now-free-for-consumers-7000035513/
CNet (includes helpful examples of what you can and can’t do with the new apps): http://www.cnet.com/news/office-for-ios-goes-freemium-what-you-need-to-know/