Windows Phone 8 To Include 'New Office' Version for Mobile

"The new Office" will be arriving preinstalled on all Windows Phone 8 devices, Microsoft announced on Monday.

The next generation of Microsoft's smartphone platform officially launched in San Francisco on Monday, but Windows Phone 8 devices won't actually be available for sale until around the Thanksgiving holiday. Those devices all will come with the next Office Mobile version installed, according to Microsoft's Office engineering blog.

"The new Nokia, HTC, and Samsung phones all come pre-installed with Office," the blog stated.

Presumably, by "next Office," Microsoft is referring to Office 2013, which also comes preinstalled on Microsoft's Surface Windows RT devices. On Windows RT devices, Microsoft refers to that version of Office as "Office Home and Student RT," and it's a little different from the Office 2013 for x86/x64 systems as it lacks support for some features, such as macros or add-ins.

Similarly, "Office Mobile," which came with Windows Phone 7 devices, doesn't have all of the features as Microsoft's flagship Office product (Office 2010 in the case of Windows Phone 7). Documents saved between those two productivity suites were largely compatible, although there were a number of exceptions. For instance, it isn't possible to use Office Mobile on Windows Phone 7 to edit documents that have been saved in the older binary formats, such as .DOC, .XLS or .PPT, according to Microsoft's Office Mobile FAQ. Presumably, the same document compatibility issues would exist when using the new Office Mobile on Windows Phone 8 devices. Microsoft's cloud-based SkyDrive storage service, which offers up to 7 GB of storage at no cost, can be used by Windows Phones for syncing, sharing, and storing documents.

For the new Office Mobile on Windows Phone 8 devices, Microsoft made a number of improvements. Some of the improvements are touch enhancements that are similar to what Microsoft described in July for Office 2013. For instance, Excel on Windows Phone 8 will be getting more "touch-friendly handles" that will make it easier to resize rows and columns. Microsoft is also promising more faithful chart and graphics rendering in PowerPoint on Windows Phone 8 devices. Word will have a full-screen reading mode to view small text. Documents will open where you left off in the new Office Mobile apps, but this capability was also available on Windows Phone 7 devices.

Microsoft also announced in the Office engineering blog that OneNote Mobile on Windows Phone 8 will be "a separate app." Why it's considered to be a separate app from the rest of the Office suite isn't explained. However, OneNote is currently leading the pack in terms of being a true "Metro-style" app. On Windows 8 systems, Microsoft used to call it "OneNote MX app for Windows," but now it's just called "OneNote." All of the rest of Microsoft's Office 2013 apps, such as Excel, Word and PowerPoint, currently run just on the desktop side of the Windows 8 UI.

Outlook Mobile and Lync Mobile appear to be separate apps from the new Office Mobile suite, according to Microsoft's literature. Skype for Windows Phone 8 will "soon be available," according to an Oct. 29 Skype blog post. Skype is already available for Windows 8 systems, however.

The new Office Mobile for Android and Apple iOS devices was reported as expected to arrive in the first quarter of 2013, according to press accounts, which cited a Microsoft subsidiary in the Czech Republic as the source of the information. However, Microsoft has disavowed that claim. It's clear, though, that Microsoft intends to create Office Mobile suites for those devices. For instance, this Microsoft Office Mobile products page displays Windows Phone, along with Symbian, Android and Apple devices, with no further details.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for 1105 Media's Converge360 group.