Microsoft has seeking people to beta test versions of Office for Android, a clear sign that the company is moving towards a full consumer release of its popular software suite on Google’s mobile operating system.
The company will be launching open sign-ups for people interested in beta testing the new software, according to a report by The Verge. Now, the page that users will purportedly be able to use for the beta has been replaced by a notice saying that the team is updating the submission site and it will be “back online soon.”
That’s good news for Android users, who have been missing out on the suite, even as iPad owners have had a few months to take advantage of the version of Office that Microsoft released for Apple’s tablets. If Microsoft’s past patterns are any indication, Android users will need a subscription to Office 365 in order to edit files on their tablets, but anyone will be able to read and print documents for free.
It’s not clear yet if the Android version will be built only for tablets like Office for iPad, or if it will support a broader array of devices including smartphones. One way or another, the new version of Office could stand to provide Microsoft with additional revenue, as some Android users look to bring their documents over to their mobile devices.
For users of Windows tablets, though, this news is sure to reopen a long-standing wound. Microsoft has long promised a “touch-first” version of Office that can be run natively in Windows 8.1’s Metro-style interface, but has yet to deliver. Earlier this year, after the launch of Office for iPad, CEO Satya Nadella doubled down on that commitment, but didn’t set a timetable for launching touch-based Windows apps.
Mary Jo Foley of ZDNet reported last month that the Android version would beat the Windows version to market.
Users of the Surface 2 and other Windows tablets can get their Office fix by running a desktop version of the app on their tablets, but Microsoft has yet to build a version of Word, Powerpoint and Excel that’s native to touch devices.