If you asked someone on the street to name a Microsoft product they can’t live without, they would likely mention Microsoft Office, the suite that includes Outlook, Word, Excel and PowerPoint. Even Apple fans find themselves installing Office the second they buy a new Mac. IPhone owners have yearned for a way to access and edit Office documents on the go, yet Microsoft has kept this valuable asset restricted to its Windows Phones and Surface tablets.
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Last Friday, Microsoft released Office Mobile, a free app in the Apple App Store. This mobile version of Office lets you work on something at your desk, like a Word document or PowerPoint presentation, leave your desk and pull up the exact same document on your iPhone later. Any changes you make get saved back to a copy of the document and are there when you open it at your desk again.
This is a significant step for Microsoft, which has watched many of its users, especially younger users, migrate to free cloud-based programs like Google Drive, or to mobile office suites like Quickoffice. I’ve relied heavily on creating and sharing documents with other Google users via Drive for projects like planning my wedding, organizing To Do lists with my husband and coordinating my sister’s baby shower.
Unfortunately, there are many catches to using Office Mobile on the iPhone. If you can get past these, it’s a solid app that does a good job of making you forget you’re working on a small screen. It uses a lot of white space without excess text that would create clutter and its minimal number of icons allows easy access to actions like viewing and editing.
Office Mobile for iPhone app lets Microsoft Office 365 users edit their PowerPoint presentations on the go.
The first thing people should know is that Office Mobile only works for people who have a Microsoft Office 365 account. This cloud-centric, subscription version of Office starts at $ 80 a year for students using Office 365 University or $ 100 a year for Office 365 Home Premium users. If you only use a more traditional, desktop-based version of this suite, like Office 2011 or even Office 2013, you can’t use Office Mobile.
Second, it isn’t an iPad app, though you can hit the “2x” magnification button on your iPad to see it in a tablet-sized view with some slight pixilation. The iPhone’s 4-inch screen isn’t too small to use for creating, reading or editing Word documents, but cells of numbers and text in Excel spreadsheets aren’t exactly ideal for the iPhone’s screen.
Third, Office Mobile isn’t available for Android, so anyone who owns, say, a Samsung Galaxy S III or HTC One can’t use this app.
And there are other caveats. Office Mobile for iPhone doesn’t include Outlook, so if you’re a big fan of this email program, you’re out of luck on the go. Also, you can’t create PowerPoint presentations from your iPhone—though you can access and edit Word, Excel and PowerPoint.
Users can also work on Excel spreadsheets in Office Mobile for iPhone.
One purchase of Office 365 allows up to five installations on Windows PCs or Macs and up to five installations on phones, not including Windows Phones, which come preloaded with a more extensive version of Office Mobile. But even though I tested Office Mobile on an iPhone and an iPad, my account only reflected my computer installations of Office 365. A spokesman for Microsoft said this will be updated in the future to show a more comprehensive list of installations.
I signed into my Office 365 account and found all of the documents I saved to SkyDrive waiting for me in this app. (SkyDrive is the name for Microsoft’s cloud-storage system and it synchronizes documents so they reflect recent changes no matter where you open them.) Unlike some competing iPhone office suites, the app only saves documents to SkyDrive, not to the phone itself or other cloud services.
Four quick access buttons get you started with this app: Recent, Open, New and Settings. The Recent panel groups Word, Excel and PowerPoint documents together, yet sorts them into helpful time-related sections like Today, Yesterday, Two Weeks Ago and Older. The Open panel gives you access to SkyDrive or to a SharePoint account, which is Microsoft’s more corporate-focused option for cloud storage. In the New panel, I saw templates like Agenda and Outline for Word and Budget and Mileage Tracker for Excel. Templates like these are especially helpful if you’re creating a document on the go using a small screen like the iPhone.
Word documents are also accessible on the app.
Within projects in Word and Excel, I could tap an eye icon in the top right to change to Outline View or to search for a specific word in the document. Text formats can be adjusted, including highlighting, font size, strikethroughs, bolding and others, but you can’t change a font type. In Excel, AutoSums can be added, charts can be created and cells can be formatted. In a PowerPoint presentation, I edited slide text and browsed many slides at once in the Presentation View. Turning my iPhone into landscape view showed a slide taking up the full screen, while portrait view displayed my speaker notes below the slide—a handy cheat sheet for presentations.
As I accessed documents, any comments I made on them were noted in a small red tab. Tapping on this tab also gave me access to comments from others with whom I shared the document. New projects and edits to existing projects aren’t automatically saved as you go. Rather, when you navigate away from the document, you’re prompted to save changes to your SkyDrive, or simply discard changes.
Office Mobile for iPhone works well—if you meet all of the qualifications to use it. But Microsoft needs to demonstrate its presence on more platforms, including iPads and Android devices, to lure Office users from the many available free alternatives.
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After months of rumors and speculation on Microsoft’s Office plans for iOS, the software giant is finally delivering a copy for iPhone today. Office Mobile for iOS will be strictly iPhone-only initially, and Microsoft is only offering access to the application through an Office 365 subscription. When we first uncovered Microsoft’s Office for iOS plans in November, we had heard basic viewing functionality would be enabled in the apps. Those plans have clearly changed, and to view and edit documents you’ll need to sign into an account with Office 365. There’s no free standalone version, nor an iPad edition.
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“We have a product for people who aren’t able to get some form of connectivity,” explained Xbox chief Don Mattrick. “It’s called Xbox 360.”
With those snarky words, Microsoft lost E3. That much was clear as soon as Sony’s press conference started. And it’s not because the Xbox One is a bad system. If we ignore Microsoft’s terrible marketing and judge the Xbox One objectively, it’s a fine system – a home entertainment system built for the future that should provide an unparalleled user experience.
But damn it, Microsoft: stop being a jerk.
Don Mattrick, the head of Xbox at Microsoft, explained to GameTrailers that Microsoft built a system that’s future-proof and if you don’t like it, there’s another option: the eight-year-old Xbox 360.
This is Microsoft’s stance and the company doesn’t care if you complain. That message came through loud and clear during the company’s E3 press conference. Take it or leave it. Microsoft doesn’t care. They know they’ll sell millions of boxes and a group of vociferous web trolls won’t change that – or will they?
Microsoft has a reason to be cocky. The Xbox 360 rules the living room, and has set the standard for media streaming devices in the home. There have been hiccups and mistakes along the way, but overall the Xbox 360 is a fantastic system. Microsoft baked in the best of the Xbox 360 into the Xbox One, that much is apparent. However, after years of piracy and the embarrassment of briefly backing the wrong physical media platform, the company is now working on the assumption that you don’t deserve an Xbox One if you’re not connected to the Internet. It’s a fair assumption – the target market already has broadband – but there are still plenty of reasons someone doesn’t want the One to phone home every 24 hours.
The Xbox One has the potential to outsell the PS4. It has the potential of being a better investment for the casual and hardcore gamer alike. It has the potential to seamlessly bring the best of the Internet and TV to the living room.
Look at it this way: The Xbox One is an always-connected device that interfaces with subscription TV. It’s also a portal to a person’s Windows’ ecosystem, bringing the most popular computing platform on Earth to the main screen in the house. It’s a gaming system, a cable guide, a Skype machine, and a media streaming box that you can talk to. And as David Pierce explains on The Verge, the Kinect could usher in a new dimension of gaming. It’s the most pure all-in-one home entertainment system ever built.
But Microsoft went too far.
The Xbox One treats every owner as a potential thief. By nearly requiring a broadband Internet connection to check a game’s DRM, the Xbox One is locked to a living room. Forget about rigging up a system for a long road trip. Forget about taking the system to the family cabin or grandma’s house. Without broadband Internet, the Xbox One is useless.
This always-connected scheme is even scarier when updates are considered. Microsoft will essentially be able to remotely control all these systems and push updates unbeknownst to the owner. But it gets worse: The Xbox One doesn’t work without Kinect, which is always on as well. Xbox One owners cannot trade or easily sell back games. The console is worthy of a mention in a George Orwell novel.
These downsides put Microsoft in a powerful position with game publishers. It’s all about making money and selling systems. It guarantees that games will not be pirated, theoretically putting them at ease and more likely to publish exclusives on the Xbox One. But once you put making money above the user, you start down a slippery slope.
Then there’s the PS4.
As Sony stated loudly and clearly at the PlayStation 4 press conference, the system doesn’t require games check-in online. Games can be traded like baseball cards. The system doesn’t require an Internet connection.
Best yet, indies can self-publish on the PS4.
Sony won E3 by being the anti-Microsoft. The Xbox One has ridiculous DRM and all Sony had to do is state that the PS4 takes a familiar, old-school approach to gaming. It’s just a new PlayStation. Nothing more.
The Xbox One launch is a marketing disaster even though the product itself is solid. Forgive the hyperbole, but every time Microsoft makes a statement, the hole gets deeper. But at the very least Microsoft isn’t hiding anything. There shouldn’t be anymore surprises. Hopefully.
[pics from /r/gaming]
[Correction: a previous version of this story incorrectly stated that the Xbox 360 was the bestselling console of the last generation.]
Microsoft has announced that digital purchases on its Xbox One console will use real currency, rather than its much-maligned system of Microsoft Points. “We’re moving to real money,” said Marc Whitten onstage at Microsoft’s E3 keynote presentation, explaining that users in various countries will be able to use their local currency.
The Xbox 360 drew criticism for its transaction system, where users were forced to buy Microsoft Points in increments of 1000 when most Xbox Live Arcade games sold for 800 points ($ 10) or 1200 points ($ 15). The company did, however, allow for purchases in real currency on its Xbox Games on Demand service.
Check out our Xbox E3 2013 Live Blog for the latest updates!
Bloomberg is reporting this morning that Microsoft is cutting the price of Windows RT for small tablets in a seemingly desperate bid to spur sales.
It’s a rather predictable move and a touch sad. Tablets based on Windows RT, an operating system that’s pure garbage, are not selling, because, referring to my first point, Windows RT is trash. And since they’re not selling, Microsoft is making concessions and that means cutting the price.
Windows RT was supposed to be Microsoft’s answer to iOS on tablets. Microsoft built the platform to be more robust than the Apple counterpart by including a lot of Windows 8′s desktop tools to run on lower-power devices. But in doing so, Microsoft forked its operating system, forcing developers to choose between Intel-based Windows 8 or ARM-based Windows RT (or Windows Phone 8 or Xbox).
Now, some eight months after Windows RT’s launch, very few mainstream apps have made their way into the Windows Store. There are only a smattering of Windows RT devices available. Meanwhile, Windows 8 devices are quickly becoming as inexpensive as Windows RT.
Microsoft has failed to provide buyers with legitimate reasons to buy a Window RT tablet over an iPad or Android device. Windows RT can run most of Microsoft Office, something traveling shower ring salesmen probably find enticing.
Cutting the price could help.
Android tablets went through the same sort of soul-searching early on, too. For several years, Android tablets were overpriced and without any real reason to exist (remember the HTC Jetstream?).
Then came the $ 250 B&N Nook Color followed a year later by the Amazon Kindle Fire and the Nexus 7. Suddenly, thanks to their $ 200 price tag, Android tablets were a viable option for buyers. As popularity exploded Samsung and others cut the price on larger versions, helping to entice more buyers, thus expanding the Android tablet’s market share.
I’m not sure even a $ 200 tablet could save Windows RT, though.
Computer makers are dropping Windows RT support en mass. HP killed its RT support early on. Samsung followed suit. HTC recently stopped developing its large RT tablet, instead focusing on a smaller, likely 7-inch model. As Bloomberg notes, Dell also has another RT model in the works.
Just the Dell XPS 10, Surface RT and the Asus VivoTab RT carry the Windows RT banner. Lenovo quickly killed its Windows RT-powered IdeaPad Yoga 11. Any other model is too far outside of the mainstream to matter.
Acer just announced the Iconia W3 at Computex. The 8-inch Windows tablet is supposed to hit at 379 Euros later this month. The small-ish tab packs modest specs: 720p display, dual-core Atom Z2760 CPU, 32 or 64GB internal storage with a microSD expansion slot. But it runs Windows 8, not Windows RT.
In fact, at Computex, Taipei’s massive computer tradeshow, there isn’t a hint of Windows RT. And this is the same tradeshow that featured dozens of Windows RT examples last year. The only talk of Windows 8′s lackluster sibling came from Acer’s chairman who told WSJ that Windows RT won’t be “so influential anymore,” also noting that it would be difficult for Windows RT to overcome the lack of compatibility that the full Windows 8 version has.
Windows RT was a mistake from the onset. It’s ridiculous to force consumers to choose between battery life and usability. They’d prefer both. Like on the iPad.
Microsoft can cut prices and perhaps later introduce device subsidies, but it won’t help. Consumers, and more telling, device manufacturers, have spoken. Neither find Windows RT devices to be worth their money. As widely stated at the Surface RT launch, the platform simply has too many compromises.
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