Last month, there was a lot of buzz around the Chrome OS community as numerous users reported that their free-standing Microsoft apps from the Google Play Store were telling them to make the move to the web. I, myself, wasn’t too up in arms about this discovery for a couple of reasons. One, I do not use Microsoft applications and like myself, many Chrome OS users have long made the transition to Google or other alternatives on their Chromebooks. Secondly, as our friend Kevin Tofel pointed out, the bundled version of Microsoft’s most popular applications was alive and well in the Android Office App. Killing off the individual applications simply made sense because the Office App is an all-in-one solution.
Go to Office.com: This version of the Office app is no longer supported. For the best and most recent experience with this device, go to Office.com
Well, apparently that theory has gone out the “window” as new reports are rolling in that the packaged Office App is now giving users the same message about transitioning to the web. In response to Kevin’s advice to use the Office Android application, Twitter user @littvay shared that he was receiving the deprecated support message from there, as well. This is a bit confusing because, as The Verge pointed out, the support page recommended the Office Android applications as recently as July 31st.
That product page has now been updated to reflect the above app message and Microsoft now states that they will no longer support the Office Android app on Chrome OS. While this isn’t too much of a surprise to me, it is definitely a sore spot and a point of confusion for countless Chrome OS users that so longed for full support of the Office applications from the Google Play Store. To be clear, this does not mean that Office for mobile devices is going away. Let’s be honest, the Android app experience was never great on Chrome OS. Despite the ease of use, they aren’t exactly optimized for desktops.
When you navigate to Office.com on your Chromebook, you can already opt to install it as PWA which gives it the look and feel of a more native application. The only real drawback I see at the moment is that the Progressive Web App doesn’t support creating documents when offline but I also understand that this is a big problem for a lot of users. Offline capability for a suite of office applications is important and Microsoft can absolutely give the Office PWA this feature if the company so chooses to do so. The question is, “will they” and if so, will offline support roll out before the Android application is no longer available for Chrome OS?
Personally, I think the scuttlebutt is a bit premature. Microsoft has shifted its focus to the cloud and now offers a full-blown Windows experience served directly from the cloud. Granted, it is Enterprise-only at the moment but it’s clear to me that the old dog sees the writing on the wall and understands that cloud-based operations are where it’s at. Hopefully, the Office PWA will gain some new tricks over the coming months and Google’s focus on PWAs will bring the versatile application to the forefront of the user experience. Stay tuned as we update this post with more information as it arrives.