Today exciting and long-awaited news of Microsoft Office native apps for Apple iPad was finally released along with the availability of Microsoft Office in the iPad app store. I won’t reiterate the same information that you can read in the Microsoft blog but I will highlight a few key points and of course talk about mobile BI with this new flavor of Excel.
Starting today, you can download Word, Excel and PowerPoint for iPad from the Apple iTunes App Store. They have also released Office Mobile for iPhone in the App Store and even Android phones in Google Play. Read only versions of Office Mobile apps are free. To get the full editing and creation experience, you will need an Office 365 subscription. Finally going true cross-platform in the mobile world illustrates Microsoft’s commitment to the recent “mobile first and cloud first strategy”.
For my readers that have followed me over the past few years, you know that I am a big fan of mobile BI and the competitive advantage proactive information on the go brings to any organization. Just look at my iPad – it is jam packed with many BI vendor mobile BI apps. I simply can’t help myself when it comes to things that I enjoy. In 2011 and 2012, I shared technical details around Office 365 Excel and Visio browser-based mobile BI capabilities at various industry conferences. Starting with the Office 365/Office 2013 launch in November 2012 touch, browser-based, mobile BI with Excel 2013 documents hosted in the Office 365 cloud did improve tremendously allowing for editing of pivot table and chart reports, interactive drill down, slice & dice via quick explore features and so on. I have some of my old Office 365 Excel mobile BI demos of these features in my YouTube video gallery and in the Microsoft TechEd Session on mobile BI.
Playing with the brand new Microsoft Office Excel native apps on Apple iPad and iPhone tonight was promising but a bit disappointing right now for a BI fan. Here are a few of my tests using the same mobile BI demo files from 2012. Bottom line, the Office 365 browser-based mobile BI on iPad and other mobile device platforms is far better than the new Office Mobile Excel native apps released today. My Office Mobile Excel native iPad app only lets me see static charts and limited filtering today. Going to the iPhone, I have even less capability available. I can only see my unformatted report with no filtering. A few of the noted mobile BI features that are currently missing in the new Office Mobile Excel native apps include but are not limited to the following:
- Power View sheets are not supported
- Slicers are not supported, blank cells are rendered
- Pivot tables and charts are not fully supported
- Excel tables with filters render in the native mobile Excel iPad app but not on iPhone
- Conditional formatting renders in the native mobile Excel iPad app but not on iPhone
- Background images render in the native mobile Excel iPad app but not on iPhone
- Hyperlinks work on the native mobile Excel iPad …unsure if these work on iPhone
- Office Web Apps are not supported
Here are a few more images from my initial Office Mobile Excel testing tonight. If you click on any of the images, you should see the larger version to get better clarity on the current Excel flavor differences.
Microsoft’s claim of Office documents looking better than ever on iPad is true! Excel sparklines, charts and graphics do look totally gorgeous. I noticed this quiet change happening while working in the Power BI TAP pre-release program earlier last year. These little presentation improvements do make a difference. First impressions and application user interface designs can make or break the success of an application. Ugly applications that are functionally powerful often fail to be adopted due to user perceptions that the application might be inferior.
Another thing I tested was sharing content with others via OneDrive (formerly SkyDrive) and my Office 365 Power BI Impact Analytix Team Site. It was easy and just worked. I did think it was interesting that my test Excel file renders in OneDrive differently than it does in the web browser and in the native Excel app for iPad…so there must be yet another flavor of Excel rendering in OneDrive.
All in all, the new Office Mobile native apps for iOS and Android are a huge deal. Since they bring additional revenue streams for Microsoft, they will continue to get development love and improve over time. As for the highly anticipated Office 365 Power BI native mobile app for iPad…still crickets and waiting out here. I imagine many of the weaknesses that I cited above for the Office Mobile Excel native apps will not exist in the Power BI native mobile apps when they finally get released. Now you just have to keep track of what mobile BI Excel features work with what flavor of mobile Excel delivery – OneDrive, browser-based Excel, Excel native app and the Power BI native mobile app. Also take note of what mobile BI Excel delivery methods have licensing costs and what options are free. You do get 5 device licenses with Office 365 subscriptions.