MWC 2015: Microsoft Debuts Universal Office Apps

mwc 2015 microsoft teaser
Written by Jacqueline Emigh

Microsoft released Universal Office apps and demonstrations of Project Spartan.

aNewDomain — Microsoft leveraged the global stage of MWC 2015 for the first public demos of Universal Office apps and the Project Spartan browser. In the process, officials gave glimpses at how these and other cross-platform apps will use the best input method for a device , whether a phone or PC, and showed how they will automatically resize themselves.

mwc 2015 microsoft presentation

Image Courtesy of Microsoft

Universal Access

With the Universal Office apps platform, Windows developers will be able to write a single app, which runs across phones and tablets, just as iOS and Android developers are already doing in their own app environments.

Beyond that, the Universal apps will also work on “the HoleLens, Surface Hub and IoT (Internet of Things) devices like the Rasberry Pi 2,” said Kevin Gallo, Microsoft’s director for developer ecosystem, in a blog post that appeared just after he addressed a developers event at MWC.

However, Universal Office is not part of the smartphone build of Windows 10 Technical Preview, which is downloadable by Windows Insiders members, nor is Spartan. Neil Bradley of Microsoft Mobile, during a demo at a Microsoft press conference on Tuesday, said:

Project Spartan is built using the Universal apps platform, so that means it shares a common code base and it renders web pages with the same new rendering engine that we use across all Windows 10 devices.”

It’s designed to adapt to whatever device it’s running on, whether a phone, a tablet or a large-screen desktop PC.”

Microsoft’s first public demos of Spartan showed a clean and minimalist user interface with layouts optimized for a small screen. The browser lets users choose between font sizes and light or dark screens.

Spartan also offers a reading view which strips text and images out of an article. “It’s like an e-reader for your browser,” Bradley said.

Bradley also demonstrated how the Universal Office apps can sync across multiple devices. For instance, you can search the Maps app on a PC and see the same search results on a phone, or set up a reminder on Cortana and view the notifications on the phone.

Julia White, product marketing general manager for Office, showed Universal Office running on Windows 10 phones. White demonstrated how a new Insights feature in Word lets you do a web search of a highlighted portion of text while staying inside the app, as well as how you can use touch to create and edit cells in Excel. White also illustrated a new Tell Me tool for the Office apps that lets you type a question into a dialog box and find the feature that you need.

mwc 2015 microsoft office word

Image Courtesy of Microsoft

Lastly, Microsoft showed how you’ll be able to do “two-way inking” between a Surface Hub and another Windows 10 device, so that a file can be opened and edited on both devices at the same time for digital white boarding.

In appealing to outside developers to build their own Universal apps, Gallo focused on how the apps will adapt to each device in terms of screen layout, user inputs, user controls and overall user experience.

With Universal Office and a couple of other initiatives announced at MWC 2015, Microsoft is making a big play for selling Windows phones to businesses. The Lumia 640 and Lumia 640 XL phones, unveiled at the show, each come with a one-year subscription to Office 365, which includes access to the productivity suite for both a Windows phone and some other Windows, Android or iOS devices. As you know, you can increase work productivity with Microsoft 365.

Microsoft also announced the AT&T Mobile Suite, a business package revolving around Office 365 plus a voice connection, which includes expanded click-to-call function for Lync Online.

As a few analysts see it, some businesses are already friendly with the idea of Windows phones, anyway. Richard Edwards, principal analyst, Enterprise Mobility & Productivity for Ovum, said in an email to aNewDomain.

Those organizations with Microsoft-centric IT infrastructure management investments perceive real business value in adopting Windows Phone for corporate use, citing a more consistent user interface when compared to the varietous Android smartphone market, and higher levels of ROI linked to productivity, collaboration and information access when compared to the Apple iPhone.”

Microsoft promised to release more details about the Universal Office apps platform at its upcoming Build Developers Conference.

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