Mobile-Accessed vs Mobile-OptimizedThe Office 365 suite was made with the web in mind. Each element of the suite can be accessed through Office Web Apps which retain full functionality when accessed from a mobile device. Tablet and smartphone environments could thus already access the Office 365 functionality—so what extras does the release of a specialized app entail?
Put simply, this is Microsoft’s first major attempt to release a mobile-optimized app for its productivity software outside of the Windows Phone environment. The application offers improved navigation and a few mobile-tuned features designed to help with productivity on the go.
Those mobile-friendly features include advanced synchronization with the subscriber’s non-mobile versions of Microsoft Office: Users can find the recently viewed documents regardless of where they were retrieved from and resume reading or editing documents from their last saved document location.
You can find more details by taking a look at the Apple Store page for the app here.
Microsoft’s Future App DevelopmentsWhile tuning Office 365 for the iOS environment is a major step toward releasing optimized apps, it may not imply that all of Microsoft’s productivity software will receive the same treatment. While a mobile-specific version of SharePoint 2013 and SharePoint Online remain as possibilities, there are also hints that Microsoft is using a different strategy.
With the official blog post announcing the app, Microsoft also advised tablet users to avoid the application in favor of using Office Web Apps through their tablet browser. This is the same method currently used for connecting with SharePoint.
Despite the efforts seen here, Microsoft may be reluctant to make mobile-tuned apps. It may also be that this application is being used to test the waters for future app development. While some of the early response has been negative, many of the unfriendly reviews seem to be a response to Microsoft’s subscription model rather than the app itself.
In any case, Microsoft currently seems more focused on optimizing the web-based version of their productivity suite. While this may preclude opportunities for a mobile-oriented UI and features, adding app development to the lineup could reduce the project’s speed of adaptation. In either case it’s a trade-off, and a difficult choice to make. Regarding that choice, Microsoft has yet to give clear indications of its long-term plan.
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