Only two weeks after Office landed on iPad and about eight weeks since it made it easy to find through the launch of Office.com, Microsoft is chasing users wherever it can find them -- and in this case it's Chrome Web Store, right in the middle of Google’s own stomping ground.
It also appears to have quietly retired its Scroogled campaign.
It would probably be a bit silly to overestimate the real impact of this, given that users were always able to access Office apps through the Office.com in the Chrome browser. But with a new CEO on board, any sign of changes in the way Microsoft is doing business should be paid attention to.
Office and Chrome
Microsoft itself is not making a big deal about this, and mentioned the move almost as an afterthought in a blog post that appeared late yesterday about improvements to already existing and forthcoming Office apps.
In fact, unless you had read right down through the post, you wouldn’t have noticed anything. There, at the bottom, Kaberi Chowdhury, technical product manager for Office Online, mentions that the main business Office apps are now available with Chrome.
Office Online works great in all browsers, but for those of you who use Chrome, you can now add Word Online, PowerPoint Online and OneNote Online to your Chrome App launcher to create new Office documents online with a single click from your desktop. As easy as that. Excel Online will be coming to the web store shortly.
The result is that, as of this update, users can launch most of the productivity suite's web apps in the Chrome browser, or Chrome OS, just by clicking on a shortcut.
This means that Word Online, PowerPoint Online and OneNote are now all offered as Chrome Apps, with Excel on the way. And unlike Office 365 apps that cost over $100 per year for even the Home subscription, these ones are free.
Microsoft Online Excel Updates including 'Tell Me' function
Is this further evidence that Microsoft is starting to pursue users -- and potential customers -- wherever they may be? Considering how long it took Microsoft to release Office for iPad, it would certainly seem that way.
Satya Nadella hasn’t spoken much about the strategy he intends to use to regain the market share it lost by failing to react to a rapidly changing industry. But without a doubt, things like Office for iPad and the presence of Office Apps in the Chrome store are both going to be crowd pleasers.
And while neither announcement is likely to set the tech world on fire, these recent moves will certainly make using and, more importantly, accessing these apps a lot easier. And easy access and agility are pure gold in current productivity suite business.
This is only speculative, but this could also be part of an unannounced strategy starting to unfurl: a strategy that focuses more on what Microsoft can offer and less on its rivals weaknesses.
Microsoft Word Online updates including better annotation
Further evidence of this emerged over the weekend when Derrick Connell, a Microsoft Corporate Vice President in charge of the Bing Experience, indicated that Microsoft had quietly buried its "Scroogled" campaign.
Scroogled was a US campaign launched in 2012 to highlight what Microsoft described as Bing’s commitment to honest search results and to help explain Google Shopping’s “pay-to-rank” practice.
In a Question and Answer session held on Yabbly over the weekend, when asked for his thoughts on the Scroogled campaign, Connell replied that the campaign had been created to draw attention to "some activities that we didn't like as a company (for e.g., the idea of scanning email for the purpose of selling you ads seemed wrong."
He would add that he believed Microsoft had achieved that goal and changed some policies and that “…we are now done with the campaign”.
Microsoft Scroogled Home Page
Its unlikely anyone will really be sorry to see the back of the Scoogled campaign. While the spectacle of tech companies slugging it out in no holds barred contests are commonplace -- think, for example, about some of the choice comments Oracle’s Larry Ellison has made about competitors -- "Scroogled" just wasn’t very dignified.
Microsoft didn’t -- and doesn’t -- need to do that kind of campaigning, having a portfolio of products that can stick it to competitors in any area of computing. Additionally, many consumers appear to have been uneasy about the whole concept from the very start.
It is unlikely that Microsoft will stop fighting with Google -- nor should it. But the battle needs to be for the hearts and pockets of users, and the only way to win that battle is by developing its portfolio. Even if placing Office Apps in the Chrome store is only a small thing, it’s a positive move and hopefully a sign of bigger things to come.