Microsoft announced Monday that it's combining Word, Excel and PowerPoint into a single Office app on mobile devices. The products will remain separate on desktops--even Microsoft wouldn't dare confuse Windows users by consolidating its Office suite into a single app--but will be lumped together on Android and iOS.
"The new Office mobile app represents our vision for what a productivity solution would look like if first built for mobile devices," Microsoft said in the blog post announcing this change in approach. "In designing this new experience, we first considered how people’s expectations differ when using a phone versus a computer, so we set out to optimize for simplicity, efficiency and common mobile needs."
Bringing the Office suite together into a single Office app helped achieve most of those goals. The apps had their own mobile optimizations already: Word and Excel could both create editable documents from pictures, for example, and PowerPoint could use pictures taken directly from the phone's camera roll. This isn't the first time Microsoft's tried to make the Office suite a bit easier to use on smartphones.
But the new Office app will feature other changes too. Microsoft introduced a new Actions pane that's supposed to make it easier to create PDFs, scan QR codes and more. The company also tried to provide easier access to Sticky Notes, and the integrated Office Lens features enable users to "create automatically enhanced digital images of whiteboards and documents."
The new Office app is currently available as a public preview on Android. The iOS version reached the 10,000 user limit Apple imposes on pre-release software distributed via its TestFlight platform the same day it was announced.
Microsoft said the new app will initially be exclusive to smartphones, but it plans to bring it to tablets some time in the future (it didn't provide a date).
Users of the Word, Excel and PowerPoint mobile apps needn't fret about their apps going away yet. Microsoft said it will "continue to support and invest in the existing Word, Excel and PowerPoint mobile apps" because it believes "everyone should decide which experience works best for them on their phones."
But we'll see how long the redundant apps will remain available once people get used to the idea of a single Office app.