Microsoft Makes Office Apps Available for Free

Microsoft is making an aggressive push to convert its dominance of desktop business applications into dominance in the mobile world. The company will make its flagship Office applications free on most mobile devices.

Microsoft is making an aggressive push to convert its dominance of desktop business applications into dominance in the mobile world.

The company said Thursday it will offer its Microsoft Office apps for free on mobile devices, including the iPhone, iPad, and Android tablets. The iPhone and iPad apps are immediately available. The Android tablet app isn’t expected to be available until next year, though customers can sign up now for a free preview.

Office has long dominated the desktop world, coming pre-installed on millions of computers. That software comes with a significant price tag. The “Home and Business” version of Office 2013 for PCs retails for about $220.

However, the growth of mobile technology has posed a challenge for Microsoft, as users could now download alternative document and spreadsheet apps for free.

The best known of those competitors is Google, whose word processor, spreadsheet app, and cloud storage system mirror the functionality of Office, but without the cost.

In March, Microsoft released an Office for iPad app, but the app required a subscription to Microsoft’s cloud storage service before one could create or edit documents. The subscriptions cost $7-10 per month. Microsoft said that app had more than 40 million downloads, despite the pay wall.

The new apps will let users create and edit content without a subscription. The Apple versions require iOS 7.0 or later.

In a press release, John Case, Microsoft’s corporate vice president for Office, said the company wants to be the go-to software for content creators. He said the new software solidifies Microsoft’s position.

“With over a billion Office customers worldwide, and over 40 million downloads on the iPad, it’s clear that Office applications are what people want to use to get things done,” he said.

However, in an interview with The New York Times, Case conceded that revenue from Office is slowing down, thus creating a need for more customers.

“We’d like to dramatically increase the number of people trying Office,” Case said. “This is about widening the funnel.”