Microsoft Corp is serious about making its most lucrative business, Office, relevant for mobile users. What is less clear is how much money it will be able to make from them.
On Monday, the company announced partnerships with nearly a dozen makers of tablets based on Android, Google Inc’s mobile operating system. The most prominent of those deals is with Samsung Electronics Co, the largest maker of Android devices, which plans to ship Office, including Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote, on some of its tablets during the first half of this year.
Just recently, Microsoft cut a similar deal to load Office onto Samsung’s new Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge phones.
Microsoft said Dell Inc would also put Office on its Android tablets. Nine other companies, mostly regional hardware makers in other countries, will do the same.
The deals are yet another illustration of how Microsoft has changed its philosophy about mobile. The old Microsoft fought against the mobile technology duopoly of Android and Apple Inc’s iOS by withholding its Office applications from them. The new Microsoft is doing everything it can to get Office into the hands of people on those devices.
“It goes to show we are truly reinventing ourselves,” Microsoft executive vice president for business development Peggy Johnson said in an interview.
Microsoft’s top priority at the moment is clearly more usage, not sales. The company is letting mobile users run Office on their phones and tablets free, in hopes of eventually luring them to buy premium features available through an Office subscription service.
Johnson said there had been 80 million downloads of Office on iOS, which powers iPhones and iPads.
This so-called freemium approach to making money is the standard for countless app startups today. However, it is a bit riskier for a company like Microsoft with a colossal, mature software franchise like Office, one that brings in billions of dollars in revenue a year.
Microsoft does not seem worried that giving away a functional version of Office for mobile will kill its business. And it certainly does not seem to be slowing the pace of its efforts to make Office a mainstay for Android and iOS users.
“We’re comfortable with the model as it stands,” Johnson said.
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