November 7, 2014 Last Updated 8:17 am

Microsoft makes the necessary move to make their Office apps free on mobile devices

Move made in recognition that users are using cloud service to move from one device to another, all without changing programs

Slowly but surely the lights are going on at Microsoft. For the past few years many in the tech industry sat in amazement as Microsoft, which is still selling billions of dollars of consumer products, appeared to be becoming more and more irrelevant to the way they worked.

officeverywhere-infographicYesterday the company announced they would allow Microsoft Office users to use their mobile apps for free without having to pay the Office 365 subscription.

The move is completely logical: mobile app users are not willing to pay a fortune to use apps, so the revenue stream potential of Microsoft Office app sales were minimal (at least from the perspective of a billion dollar company). But with more and more Office users moving to Apple or Google solutions, their core PC business was at risk (and still may be).

Now the hope is that more mobile devices owners will use Office apps, and want to stay within Office and buy that subscription for their PC or Mac. Basically, this is a freemium strategy.

If you want Office Everywhere, as Microsoft says, you have to get people to use those mobile apps.

The root of the problem is that mobile devices are just too important today, and Microsoft’s position in mobile is weak compared to Apple and Google.

Here there is less good to say about the Redmond company. Microsoft, which dominated tech press world in the days of Byte and the Industry Standard, has fallen far behind. In almost five years publishing TNM I have never heard from anyone at Microsoft and rarely have gotten inquiries answered. This isn’t that unusual, Apple and Google are hardly PR experts, but Microsoft’s position is hardly that of Apple and Google.

The irony is that Microsoft has a huge opening. The Surface has made some huge strides in the past year, even sales are up (though some tech writers dismiss the progress, I don’t). Tablets owners want their devices to have more storage, more power, do more things, not just be lighter and thinner. A PC owner, in particular, might honestly compare products and choose a Surface.

But it will take a long time to penetrate the mobile phone and tablet markets, and so, in the meantime, Microsoft sees the value of getting those Office apps onto your iPhone or Android device. Yesterday the company started to accept applications from Android owners for a preview of the Office for Android tablet app(s).

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