Major Changes in Microsoft Mobile Apps: Free and Dropbox

Microsoft is making some big improvements to its Office mobile apps today, starting with an entirely new iPhone app. When the original iPhone version debuted last year, it was basic and underwhelming. Today’s new iPhone app is a lot more similar to the iPad version, and that’s a good thing. After using the new app over the past several days I can’t imagine going back to the old Office Mobile solution. The entire codebase has been replaced with the iPad version, creating a universal app that brings all the features you’d expect.

The confusing interface is gone, replaced with easier editing options and the ability to shape and move photos and other elements in documents. There’s a special formula keyboard in Excel, a full screen view, and little optimizations for bigger iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus displays. On the PowerPoint side there’s also transition and animation support, the ability to play audio and video from slides, and the usual presentation view. Native Dropbox support is also available in Word, Excel, and PowerPoint for iPhone. Most importantly, it’s free to view and edit documents now, a big change Microsoft is unveiling across all of its mobile apps today.


Microsoft is also accepting signups for an Android tablet version of Office today. It’s pretty much identical to the iPad version in terms of features, and it even looks similar. Office for Android will only support KitKat and above, and Microsoft plans to start distributing it to preview participants in December. "Our goal with this preview is to ensure that we get a broad representation of the vast array of form factors, device types, and operating system versions that the Android tablet install base represents, and make sure we can polish these apps," explains Microsoft’s head of Office marketing Michael Atalla.

The reason Microsoft has been able to keep both Android and iOS versions identical is thanks to a new cross-platform approach to the codebase of Office. "It has required us to be great at writing platform code for Android, code for iOS, and code for Windows," says Atalla. All of that effort has been put together into a single platform so Microsoft can share code across iOS, Android, and Windows. The benefit is faster updates and more features for Office users. "Over the past year, we’ve had 150 different updates to Office applications across all platforms," says Atalla. "We’re moving very very quickly in adding capability and adding functionality."

As Windows 10 progresses, so do touch-optimized versions of Office. "We continue to work on touch-optimized versions for Excel and Word for Windows 10," explains Atalla. "Those will be aligned with Windows 10." Microsoft isn’t providing any timing for those apps or their features, but it’s safe to assume they’ll be bundled into the tablet and phone version of Windows 10. Microsoft is expected to preview that version early next year, so expect to experiment with the touch versions of Office for Windows 10 very soon.

Get a Free PC Tune-Up and Tech Support from the Microsoft Store

Nearest MS Store Location

If you’re running Windows and run into a problem, don’t take it to a store that charges for repairs. You can get tech support, diagnostics, virus removal, and tune-ups for free at any Microsoft Store.

For comparison, these services cost $200 just for virus and spyware removal from Best Buy’s Geek Squad.

The free in-store services cover any software-related issues. Other services cost $49: hardware upgrades or installation, app installation, data backup migration, Windows 8.1 upgrades or installations, and OneDrive setup.

Even if you didn’t buy your computer from the Microsoft Store, you’re still eligible—including if you’re running Windows on your home brewed PC (I called Microsoft to check).

If there are no Microsoft Stores near you, you can get remote tech support services from Microsoft, but they start at $99.

Answer Desk. At your service. | Microsoft Store

SkyDrive will soon become OneDrive

OneDrive for Everything in Your Life

By Ryan Gavin – January 27, 2014, General Manager, Consumer Apps & Services, Microsoft

Today we are pleased to announce that SkyDrive will soon become OneDrive.

OneDrive Logo

Why OneDrive? We know that increasingly you will have many devices in your life, but you really want only one place for your most important stuff. One place for all of your photos and videos. One place for all of your documents. One place that is seamlessly connected across all the devices you use. You want OneDrive for everything in your life.

Of course, changing the name of a product as loved as SkyDrive wasn’t easy. We believe the new OneDrive name conveys the value we can deliver for you and best represents our vision for the future. We are excited about what is to come, and can’t wait to share more.

For current users of either SkyDrive or SkyDrive Pro, you’re all set. The service will continue to operate as you expect and all of your content will be available on OneDrive and OneDrive for Business respectively as the new name is rolled out across the portfolio.

Expect to be able to experience the new OneDrive soon, and if you want to be one of the first to hear about it, let us know at

Ryan Gavin

General Manager, Consumer Apps & Services

Microsoft Imagine Cup Kodu Challenge

Microsoft launched the Imagine Cup Kodu Challenge, a new competition that offers students as young as nine years old the chance to build a game with Kodu, a visual programming language. Microsoft collaborated with the Joan Gantz Cooney Center, an organization that studies how kids learn from and use digital media, and Mercy Corps, a nonprofit NGO that saves and improves lives during crisis, on this Challenge an effort to address the STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) skills gap by helping more kids get excited about coding.

Due to the shortage of STEM graduates, careers including computer programming, software design and technology platform development may go unfilled in coming years. Microsoft created the Imagine Cup Kodu Challenge as part of the nationwide movement to change that trend; students who compete, will build videogames for Windows PCs with the Kodu platform, an easy to use game-creation toolkit and programming language available for free download and translated into a dozen languages. With nearly half a million downloads since its release and more than 16,000 kid-created games currently available for download, Kodu has proven an effective way to teach programming to young students.

According to the Cooney Center, game design holds promise to change the way students learn STEM subjects. “…The experience kids have creating their own video games with Kodu represents a strong, multidisciplinary approach to learning and skill development that harnesses kids’ natural love of play with creativity, technical abilities and a deep immersion in fascinating topics,” said Michael Levine, executive director of the Cooney Center.

The Kodu Challenge runs from March 19 through May 17, 2013.  Students in two age brackets (9–12 and 13–18) will design games on the Kodu platform that explore the relationships between water and people through the medium of Kodu video games. While acquiring valuable skills such as critical thinking, storytelling and programming, students in both age brackets will compete for first-place prizes of US$3,000, second-place prizes of US$2,000 and third-place prizes of US$1,000.

To learn more about Imagine Cup, part of Microsoft YouthSpark, or the Kodu Challenge, you can read the full press release, or the Microsoft on the Issues blog.