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Microsoft Widens Availability of Office for Android Tablets Preview

The preview versions of Microsoft's Office apps for Android tablets are now available to more users, Microsoft announced on Tuesday.

Microsoft initially launched the previews of Excel, Word and PowerPoint applications for Android tablets in November. At that time, access to the previews was limited to those who signed up to join a waiting list. Tuesday's announcement means that the preview apps are now broadly available; anyone can download them via the Google Play store.

The OneNote for Android Office app has been available in the Google Play Store since November. Now the Excel, Word and PowerPoint are freely available there, too.

Microsoft also broadened the availability of the previews for users of the "Lollipop" Android operating system, in addition to the "KitKat" Android OS. There's still a hardware restriction to using the Office apps on devices that have screen sizes ranging between 7 inches and 10 inches.

Microsoft is planning to release the finished Office apps for Android tablets products sometime in the early part of this year, although a specific date hasn't been announced. When the final products are released, the apps will be free to use, and consumers will have the use rights to create and edit documents with them. However, Microsoft is expected to require an Office 365 subscription if the Office apps for Android tablets are used for business purposes.

Possibly, an Office 365 subscription may be required for consumers to use certain "premium features." At least that's the current model for Apple iOS users of the Office apps, where an Office 365 subscription is required to use features such as columns in Word or customized pivot table styles in Excel. So far, though, Microsoft hasn't disclosed such Office for Android nuances.

Microsoft also makes an Office Mobile for Android product that's specifically designed for smartphones, which is also available via the Google Play store. It also permits the creation and editing of Excel, PowerPoint and Word documents, although an Office 365 subscription is required for business use. Microsoft lists the qualifying plans as "Office 365 Small Business Premium, Office 365 Midsize Business, Office 365 Enterprise E3 and E4 (Enterprise and Government), Office 365 Education A3 and A4, and Office 365 ProPlus."

Microsoft is still working on a touch-optimized version of Office apps for Windows 10. Those apps possibly could appear this summer or this fall, since that's when Microsoft has estimated that Windows 10 will hit general availability.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for the 1105 Enterprise Computing Group.