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Microsoft puts its touch-friendly Office apps for Windows 10 on hold

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Microsoft’s universal app experiment for Office is all but over

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Microsoft first started work on its touch-friendly Office apps for Windows 8.1 more than five years ago. Designed for tablets or laptops with touchscreens, the apps are lightweight and speedy versions of Word, Excel, and PowerPoint. Microsoft has updated them regularly for Windows 10, but now that the company has halted work on Windows 10 Mobile, it’s also halting work on these Office apps.

The apps aren’t fully dead yet, but Microsoft is no longer developing new features for them. “We are currently prioritizing development for the iOS and Android versions of our apps; and on Windows, we are prioritizing Win32 and web versions of our apps,” explains a Microsoft spokesperson in a statement to The Verge.

The reprioritization isn’t all that surprising given the state of dedicated universal Windows apps on Windows 10 and the Microsoft Store. These touch-friendly versions of Office were once a great example of what developers could achieve if they made universal Windows apps, but Microsoft now lets developers simply package existing desktop apps and list them in the store. There’s little incentive for developers to create these new universal Windows apps, and Microsoft’s own prioritization for Office makes it clear that traditional desktop apps will remain the powerful apps on desktop Windows machines.

While Microsoft currently uses these touch-friendly apps on devices like the HoloLens and Surface Hub 2, it’s clear that the company sees an opportunity to push development of its web versions of Office as a replacement. Microsoft could make these web versions far more powerful as browser standards continue to emerge, and with progressive web apps they’ll certainly look and feel a lot more like a traditional app anyway.

Either way, if you’re a fan of these apps on Windows 10 then this will be disappointing news until the web versions are just as fully featured. Microsoft started hiding these apps from the store recently, and most new Office 365 features now appear in the desktop apps.