Microsoft on Thursday announced big news for mobile users. The firm is now allowing anyone on an Android or iOS device to create and edit Microsoft Office documents without having to sign up for an Office 365 subscription. That saves you a minimum of $6.99, the entry-level Office 365 plan that, until today, was required to take full advantage of Office on mobile devices. It’s the first major step for Microsoft Office on mobile since the company first released Office for iPad back in March, and the changes are effective immediately, Microsoft said.
Few golden geese in technology have survived as long as Office has for Microsoft. The suite of applications that includes Word, Excel and PowerPoint, first released in 1990, generated nearly a third of Microsoft’s revenue during its last fiscal year — about $26 billion of $87 billion in total. By some estimates, the software accounted for an even higher portion of the company’s gross profits. But in a sign of the seismic changes underway in the tech industry, Microsoft, the world’s largest software company, said on Thursday that it would give away a comprehensive mobile edition of Office. The free software for iPads, iPhones and Android tablets will do most of the most essential things people normally do with the computer versions of the product. Just a few years ago, giving away a full free version of Office would have earned a Microsoft chief executive a visit from a witch doctor. Now, the move is following through on the rallying cry coming from Satya Nadella, Microsoft’s new chief executive, who has pushed cloud and mobile computing as lodestars for the company’s future.