Starting September 18th, Microsoft will end support for the Office and Outlook Android apps on Chrome OS and start pushing Chromebook users to its web apps instead, according to a statement it gave About Chromebooks. As recently as July 31st, Microsoft’s support documents recommended installing the Android versions of Office, Outlook, OneNote, and OneDrive, but now those documents say that the apps are unsupported for Chrome OS users.
As About Chromebooks’ Kevin Tofel points out, though, the move to web apps makes the offline situation for Office users more complicated. While certain Office web apps, like Outlook, have a dedicated offline mode, Tofel reports not being able to open existing documents using Microsoft’s progressive web app for Chrome OS while offline. While Chrome OS does offer some offline editing capabilities for Office files natively, it doesn’t offer the real Office experience like the Android apps did while disconnected from the internet.
Microsoft wasn’t immediately available to answer questions about what offline functionality the Office web experience for Chrome OS offered, or whether it would be making improvements before the September switchover.
For those who are always online, though, the move from Android to web app may not make too much of a difference. For the most part, the web version of Office offers many of the features that you’d need for basic word processing, spreadsheeting, and presentation making — though I’m certainly not one to judge those who don’t prefer web apps.
Microsoft’s statement to About Chromebooks doesn’t really go into why the company is making the change, though it does say that it will let Chrome OS users access “additional and premium features.” (It’s worth noting that Chrome OS users could already use the Office web apps if they chose.) Tofel reports that this change doesn’t mean that Office for Android will be going away for phone users. We’ve reached out to Microsoft to confirm this and will let you know if we hear back.
There is some irony in Microsoft pushing Chromebook users away from using Android apps on their laptops, as Windows 11 will have support for running Android apps. That said, Android apps’ functionality on Chrome OS has long been criticized, and even Google has replaced some of its own apps with PWAs on the platform. Most PWAs are only useful while you have a live internet connection, but that’s not really the case for apps like Office. Hopefully, Chromebook users will get the option for an offline experience back after the switch.