Microsoft opens Office for Android tablet preview to all comers

Expands earlier invite-only sneak peek; Lollipop users now eligible

PowerPoint for Android

Microsoft today opened its preview of Office for Android tablets to all eligible comers, expanding the sneak peek from the invite-only beta it first offered in November.

The requirements for using the preview were also slightly changed. Microsoft added the recently-released Android 5.0, aka Lollipop, to the requirements list, which earlier had included only Android 4.4, better known as KitKat. Tablets must sport a screen between 7-in. and 10.1-in. to run the unfinished apps.

According to Google, 39% of all Android devices ran KitKat as of Jan. 5; Lollipop's share was under the 0.1% cut-off. Some tablets, however, do run Lollipop, including Google's own Nexus 7 and Nexus 10.

"We want more feedback from more users to ensure that Office apps work well on a range of different Android tablets before launching the official apps," Microsoft said on its Office 365 blog.

Office for Android is composed of the same three core apps seen in Office for iPad: Excel, PowerPoint and Word. Office for iPad debuted in March 2014, and the Android apps boast similar if not identical functionality to those that run on Apple's tablet.

As with Office for iPad, when Office for Android launches, consumers will be able to view, create and edit documents free of charge in non-commercial settings, but business customers and anyone who wants to utilize the advanced features will need a current Office 365 subscription.

Office for Android smartphones, called Office Mobile, remains available and free to download. Microsoft has said that it will unbundle that integrated app into three standalone apps of Excel, PowerPoint and Word, as it did for Office on Apple's iPhone in November.

Although Microsoft has not yet set a launch date for Office for Android tablets, last year it said it would release the apps in early 2015.

The three apps -- Excel, PowerPoint and Word -- can be downloaded from Google Play, the official Android e-mart.

Copyright © 2015 IDG Communications, Inc.

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