Microsoft is planning to preview its updated Office suite for Windows 10 phones by the end of the month. While the company has already launched a preview of the universal apps for desktop PCs and tablets, the phone-optimized version will provide a closer look at how Microsoft’s Office apps will work across Windows, iOS, and Android. Microsoft launched free versions of Office for iOS and Android last year, leaving Windows Phone users with an outdated interface and a lack of features compared to rival platforms.
The Office for Windows 10 phones preview will correct that, bringing a fresh new interface and the same features found on the new iOS and Android versions. Microsoft has really optimized the interface for thumb use, with most of the commonly used editing controls available at the bottom of the screen. While Microsoft is currently previewing a version of the Windows 10 operating system for phones, it’s in the early stages of development with lots of UI and app changes planned to accommodate small screens. The new Office universal apps aren’t built directly into Windows 10, but they will ship with new phones later this year, and the switch to store apps means Microsoft can update Word, Excel, and PowerPoint more frequently. This should result in an update schedule that’s similar to the iOS and Android versions, with at least one update per month for bug fixes or minor feature additions.
Microsoft's desktop Office is getting updated too
On the desktop side, Microsoft isn’t forgetting about its existing users. Office 2016 will debut later this year as traditional desktop apps, and Microsoft is updating the user interface to closely match the universal, iOS, and Android versions. Some may question why Microsoft has two separate versions of Office, but the new universal apps are designed for form factors of 10.1-inch and below, so the desktop apps will continue to be the focus for traditional workplace and laptop computing. It’s not yet clear whether Microsoft will restrict the new universal apps from functioning on 10.2-inch or above machines, but the apps are basic and largely designed for touch screens.
One missing part of the Windows 10 is puzzle is Microsoft’s plans for 7-inch devices. These are generally considered big phones or small tablets, and Microsoft is currently testing out new ways to extend and scale the Windows Phone UI up to these form factors. We saw leaked screenshots of some early work earlier this week, but Microsoft isn’t yet ready to detail its plans for Office on these form factors. Right now, the universal apps will adapt to phone and tablets accordingly, but anything in-between is still a mystery. Microsoft’s Build developers conference starts later this month, so we should start to hear a lot more about the company’s plans for Windows 10 apps across multiple devices.