If you have tried using word processing, spreadsheet or presentation apps on your mobile devices that are supposed to be compatible with Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint, you have probably been underwhelmed at best. For those of you who became frustrated like I did with the pseudo-Microsoft Office apps, you either stopped trying to edit documents, spreadsheets, etc. on your devices or thought hard about paying Microsoft for the real Office apps. As of this month, there is no longer a need to open your wallet in order to do so.

According to the Wall Street Journal, Microsoft decided to abolish the fee to use the majority of the functions for its Office 365 mobile apps. Office 365 is the web/mobile version of Microsoft’s popular Office software suite. Prior to this announcement, individuals who wanted to create or revise Word documents, PowerPoint presentations or Excel spreadsheets on iPads, iPhones and Android devices had to purchase an Office 365 subscription. This subscription starts at approximately $70 per year for non-business users.

While you may be pleased with the increased accessibility to the Office 365 apps, you may also be wondering why Microsoft would provide this accessibility. This is not an altruistic move by Microsoft—it is a shift in strategy. John Case (corporate vice president of marketing for Microsoft Office) explains, “We want as many users as we can get. It’s becoming clearer to us, to continue to be the best paid solution, it’s also important to be the best free solution.”

Offering the mobile Office 365 for free is not a big revenue risk. Microsoft will continue to receive subscription fees for Office 365 software on laptops and desktops. Once they have the mobile versions on their devices, these Office 365 users are highly likely to want to use Mac or PC versions. Consequently, Microsoft will still obtain revenue from many of these individuals. The net result of these factors is the continued expansion of subscribers to consumer versions of Office 365. Since June 2013, this population has increased at a 7X rate. Given Microsoft’s new strategy, this rate should climb to a much higher level.


Ryan Lahti is the founder and managing principal of OrgLeader, LLC. Stay up to date on Ryan’s STEM-based organization tweets here: @ryanlahti