Microsoft says it will offer its Office franchise free to some mobile customers, its latest effort to keep customers using its products in a less PC-dependent world.
Microsoft broke with longstanding tradition in March, announcing it would make the Office suite of word processing and productivity software available for the first time on Apple’s iPad.
Starting Thursday, users of iPhones, iPads can create and edit Office documents without a subscription to Microsoft’s paid Office 365 service, the company said. Similar service for Google’s Android tablets is in the works.
For decades, Microsoft’s strategy prioritized developing software for its Windows platform, which powered most of the world’s PCs. But with PC sales stagnant, and more customers using mobile devices powered with Google or Apple operating systems rather than Windows, Microsoft is moving to keep users on its Office products rather than ask for a few bucks a month.
“It’s incredibly important to us that customers have a consistent experience and the ability to do more – anywhere and everywhere,” the company said in a blog post.
Microsoft isn’t giving away the farm, though. Users who want to create and edit Word, Excel and PowerPoint documents on laptops will still have to pay for access. As will business clients who make up the bulk of Microsoft’s Office revenue.
And the company says not all Office features will make the jump to its free mobile apps. For the full package, users will have to buy Office 365.
Office 365, which charges users subscription fees for versions of Office they’ve downloaded from the Internet, had about 7 million subscribers at the end of September.
Customers can pick from a range of other productivity software, including Apple’s Pages and Google’s free-to-use Docs.