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Microsoft Wants You Back

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Microsoft Wants You Back

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Microsoft may not be as trendy and hip as Apple (see: Urban Dictionary’s definition of a “ hipster”), but its three reveals this past week might be about to change all that. First, this past Sunday, Microsoft quietly announced RemoteIE on its Microsoft Developer Network (MSDN) blog. Although it hasn’t had as much fanfare as other eagerly anticipated releases, such as Lollipop, this revelation could be huge for the future of inter-browser compatibility.

In the article “Microsoft: How to run Internet Explorer 11 on ANDROID, iOS, OS X,” Neil McAllister introduces us to the highlights of what’s to come. One of the main reasons Microsoft has fallen behind with developers on operating systems such as OS X is because Internet Explorer hasn’t been available for Apple computers since 2005. This has only fueled the fire of competition between Apple and Microsoft users in a corporate rivalry so entrenched in our culture that there are dozens of articles and essays written on the subject. For developers who happened to like working on Macs while also desiring to make products everyone can use, this introduced an unfortunate obstacle:

“…in order to test against the ever-quirky IE, Mac-favoring web coders have either had to build a standalone Windows machine or run Windows in a VM, and maintaining either can be both time-consuming and costly.”

Enter Remote IE. Developers can now work with the program in Microsoft’s cloud, no extra PC hardware required. That means that all developers can try out Internet Explorer 10 and see how their programs perform on the browser. Constructed on Redmond’s Azure RemoteApp technology, Remote IE allows users to:

“…stream a copy of the most up-to-date version of IE11, complete with its F12 developer tools, to their Windows, OS X, iOS, and Android devices via Microsoft's Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP) client.”

As of right now, although Remote IE will eventually be available to other OS systems, it’s currently only a service offered with Internet Explorer 10 so that Windows 7 and 8 users can play around with it. However, this structure isn’t without its drawbacks. McAllister muses:

“For one, because it's running on Windows Azure, RemoteIE lacks GPU support, so you won't see some of the graphics effects that you'd see if you were running it on local hardware…for another, because the actual browser is running not on your local machine but on a server in Microsoft's cloud, it can't access any websites that are hosted behind your firewall.”

DropBox devotees rejoice

Following the RemoteIE announcement, DropBox announced on its blog on Tuesday that they'll be partnering up with Microsoft to increase the usability of the mobile app. The popular site said that:

We know that much of the world relies on a combination of Dropbox and Microsoft Office to get work done. In fact, Dropbox is home to over 35 billion Office documents, spreadsheets, and presentations. That’s why we’re partnering with Microsoft to help you do more on your phones, tablets, and the web. Soon you’ll be able to access your Dropbox directly from Office apps, and edit Office files from the Dropbox app.

This means that you'll be able to edit, access, and share Office files through the app, and it's not just limited to Android users, either. The functionality will actually be released first to iOS, with the Android version coming soon after, all within the "next few weeks."

But does this mean that you have to have Office on your device to begin with? Yes. Which is unfortunate, because unless you have a Windows phone, you have to pay to get these...or do you?

Free lunch

Riding on their wave of changes this week, Microsoft announced Thursday morning that Office is coming to iOS and Android...for free. According to The Verge:

Starting today, you'll no longer need an Office 365 subscription to edit documents or store them in the cloud...You can now download Office for iPad and store all your documents on Dropbox without paying Microsoft anything at all. Microsoft is also releasing a brand new iPhone app today, alongside a preview of Office for Android tablets, all with Dropbox integration.

Microsoft still plans to keep Office 365 at a premium for businesses with subscriptions, but the move is just smart business. By offering apps free on mobile devices, Microsoft is keeping users loyal to their seemingly impenetrable hold on such applications.

The key here appears to be a strategic move by Microsoft to keep Office competition out of the mobile space. It's all too easy for competitors to build rival products and ship them for free on iPad, iPhone, and Android, offering premium features on top. Microsoft's Office suite is dominant, which also means it's ripe for disruption. If there's a rival Office iPad app that's free and easy to use, that could tempt consumers away from their preconceived reliance on Word, Excel, and PowerPoint.

The development is perfect for users on the go, and it's a nod to the current state of multi-device utilization in which people aren't using just one device to do business anymore. That, and the fact that the Mac versus PC war continues to rage on; offices typically have a blend of both iOS and Android users. Having Dropbox and Office on mobile devices, already in sync with one another, keeps Microsoft at the forefront of innovation with an appeal to both parties, and it might even win over some of the cool kids while they're at it.

Who says September is the most exciting month for announcements?

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