Just a year ago analysts were saying that SharePoint was failing in supporting mobile, and now Microsoft is releasing Android Apps for SharePoint. A lot has changed since the release of SharePoint 2013.
The experience in SharePoint 2010 was very pretty poor. If you browsed your SharePoint site with a smart phone by default you were presented with a text based ugly interface that barely provided an experience to browse your lists. A Forrester survey found SharePoint customers as well weren’t ready to support mobile. Most enterprises block mobile access to SharePoint over security concerns. A few things have changed the way customers think about their intranets as their employees have demanded change.
BYOD with SharePoint 2013 and Office 365
A number of new features from Microsoft help support BYOD with SharePoint 2013 and Office 365. SharePoint 2013 out of the box provides a new HTML5 contemporary view, but even that was limited in terms of what Web Parts might be displayed. Device channels are built into the publishing template as a way to support designers with flexibility to build around smart phones or tablets, but with industry techniques around Responsive Web Design I don’t expect many customers want to sign up for maintaining multiple master pages which constitutes multiple branches of code.
What really changed the landscape for mobile devices were the new Microsoft supported SharePoint mobile applications. The SharePoint Newsfeed app was the first on the scene, which provided quick access to people and documents you follow and mentions on the newsfeed. SkyDrive Pro followed, with the ability to take documents offline and setup quick “places” access to view documents on the go, and finally the Office Mobile app, with text editing and light weight formatting for smartphones. You’ll notice a pattern of release of apps that start with Windows Phone, followed by Windows 8 app, then iOS, and finally to Android.
Microsoft Comes Around with iOS and Android Support
The most interesting has been the path of Microsoft to support iOS and Android. Watching Microsoft slowly embrace non-Windows devices with not one, but multiple applications has been fascinating. It’s easy to understand why Microsoft wouldn’t want to be building offline tools for access to documents on devices they would prefer not to support. There has been a clear evolution in the thought processes for support for iOS and Android which control around 90% of the market share of smartphones.
Support for Office Mobile on iOS and SkyDrive Pro is attached to an Office 365 login and subscription, so while Microsoft’s foray into iOS may be reluctant, there is some reserve. Microsoft has hopes that customers will choose to use Office 365 over Dropbox or Google Drive.
The SharePoint Mobile ecosystem has never been more rich with nearly a dozen third party apps across all smartphone devices, with a much richer consideration for security and edge support without requirement for Office 365 subscriptions. Some customers will find these third party apps from partners offer a richer array of synchronization and search options for working with your data, but so far the best editing experience is with Microsoft Office Mobile which provides the ability to edit on mobile versions of Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint.
It seems the trifecta is complete with support for Windows Phone, iOS, and Android, but while you can run the iPhone version on your iPad, the truth is the evolution is not complete. Tablet support is lacking as is shown in the chart above. In reality the Office Web Apps do support a read write experience for the iPad. Unfortunately the Android Tablet has only a read experience on Office Web Apps.
While Microsoft hasn’t announced Office support for apps on these competitive tablets, there is a preview program for home and business that asks the user what kinds of devices they own from Blackberry to the particular type of Android Tablet. As enterprises embrace BYOD, Microsoft will be there to support it.
There’s a mobile revolution going on, and the fun has just begun.
Title image courtesy of Sakonboon Sansri (Shutterstock)
Editor's Note: To read another take on SharePoint's mobility, see Mike Ferrara's SharePoint 2013: Six Mobile Features for the Enterprise