Hallelujah! CloudOn brings MS Office to the iPhone (Android smartphone support by February)

By Michael Carney , written on December 19, 2012

From The News Desk

When you’re already ahead, the only thing to do is keep pushing the lead. That’s precisely what the team behind the hit mobile productivity app CloudOn is looking to do. With more than 2 million total downloads and more than 1 million active users after just eight months, the company that first brought Microsoft Office and Adobe Reader to the iPad and Android tablets is rolling out for a few new device categories. CloudOn version 3.0 will launch worldwide today in Android and iOS app stores, most notably adding iPhone support, as well as adding  iPad mini and Nexus 7 specific optimization.

For mobile knowledge workers, having access to Microsoft Office literally in your pocket is a complete game changer. But CloudOn was cautious not to simply port the existing tablet (or desktop) experience to the unique smartphone form factor.

The company began by focusing on content consumption and editing, rather than raw creation. Their first move was to automatically launch each document into full-screen viewer mode. Next, the formatting “ribbon” was entirely customized for the iPhone, making touch-based functions like selecting font size, turning on track changes, or creating a table extremely simple. Finally, the company emphasized the ability to leave notes on documents that can be shared and viewed by other collaborators.

In addition to adding iPhone support for the first time, CloudOn version 3.0 adds support for Android Jelly Bean version 4.1 or higher, and includes back-end optimization for seven inch tablets including specifically the iPad Mini and Nexus 7. As part of its stated mission of bringing productivity to all devices and platforms, the Android app will be coming to the Amazon App Store in the very near future, making Microsoft Office available to Kindle Fire tablets. Further, CEO Milind Gadekar pointed to an Android smartphone version coming by February, with a likely announcement taking place at Mobile World Congress, and the launch of a desktop Web version for Mac and PC users around the same time.

The grand vision for CloudOn is not simply a means of accessing Microsoft Office and other hardcore productivity applications on the go. That’s nice, but it’s a model that’s likely to get squashed by the massive firms behind these software titles. Gadekar's company has a vision of being the group productivity layer where documents can be shared, and collaborated on by teams, regardless of device or platform.

CloudOn iPhone ExcelIn the future, one user might begin a Powerpoint presentation on a Tablet, share it with a colleague who adds a few comments and updates the language on a few slides via her iPhone, and all while a boss is monitoring the progress real-time via the desktop Web app. CloudOn FileSpace, which is available for the first time as part of version 3.0, is the early manifestation of this vision. It offers users a place to add notes and view all activity from all collaborators on a single file in real-time, without having to open the file.

The final feather in the version 3.0 cap is the integration of Microsoft’s cloud storage platform SkyDrive, which joins Dropbox, Box, Google Drive, and gmail as platforms from which users can instantly access, share, and save documents and feedback.

CloudOn has raised $25.5 million across three rounds of financing from The Social+Capital Partnership, Translink Capital, Rembrandt Venture Partners, Foundation Capital, Charles Moldow, and Chamath Palihapitiya, including a $16 million Series B round in June.

As I wrote previously, Steve Jobs and Apple began the post-PC era with the introduction of the iPad nearly three years ago. But it’s really been CloudOn and a few others that have delivered the tools that unshackled workers from their desktops. Give the company another year and the water cooler gossip might be the only irreplaceable aspect of office life.