Microsoft will include Office apps with smartphones and mini tablets (sub-8-inch) when the Windows 10 operating system ships later this year, according to Julia White, general manager of Microsoft Office Product Management.
"These new Office apps will be preinstalled for free on phones and small tablets running Windows 10, and available to download from the Windows Store for other devices," wrote White in a Jan. 22 Office Blogs post. Early Windows 10 users will soon be able to take the apps for a spin.
"The Office universal apps will be available with the Windows 10 Technical Preview in the coming weeks, and general availability is on track for later this year," she said.
Like the new OS, the apps are meant to provide a consistent experience across a wide range of devices, from pocket-sized to massive interactive displays for corporate conference rooms. "Office for Windows 10 offers touch-optimized versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote and Outlook that work great on small-screen devices like your phone and tablet—all the way up to the Microsoft Surface Hub," said White.
"As 'universal' Office apps, they truly are the same app across device size, providing a consistent way for independent software vendors and developers to extend and integrate with Office apps," she continued. Last April during the company's annual Build developer conference, Microsoft officially kicked off its universal app development platform with the delivery of a release candidate (RC) of Visual Studio 2013 Update 2. New capabilities enable developers to essentially code once and target multiple Windows devices, including PCs, tablets, phones and even Xboxes.
Apart from a more touch-friendly interface, Office for Windows 10 will include new productivity-enhancing features—for example, one borrowed from the company's cloud-delivered, browser-based version of Word.
"The new Insights for Office feature (powered by Bing) in Read mode brings additional online resources like images, Web references and definitions right to you in your reading experience," White said. Insights for Office leverages Microsoft's search and machine learning technology to deliver snippets of in-context information and images while users craft their documents.
Outlook, on the other hand, gains richer authoring capabilities inspired by Word and new touch controls for managing the inbox. "Simply insert tables, add pictures and use bullets and color to get your point across. Keep up with your inbox with new touch gestures that help you read, sort, flag and archive your mail," White stated.
Microsoft hasn't forgotten about PC users. "Simultaneously, we are hard at work on the next release of the Office desktop suite that will be called Office 2016," said White. "We will have more to share on Office 2016 in the coming months, but this suite will remain the comprehensive Office experience you’re long familiar with, best suited for a PC with keyboard and mouse."
Office 2016 is slated to be released during the second half of 2015, added White.