CloudOn Comes to Android Tablets, With Microsoft Office in Tow

Productivity software virtualization company CloudOn announced today that it will now be offering its signature product for Android tablets. That means users of devices based on Google’s mobile operating system can now take advantage of CloudOn’s ability to view, edit and create Microsoft Office documents on their tablets, and store said documents in the cloud via a variety of services, including the latest addition, Google Drive.

CloudOn will provide Android tablet owners running Honeycomb and Ice Cream Sandwich, version 3.1 or higher, with access to its cloud-based productivity tools, which also include PDF file and universal image viewing. CloudOn CEO Milind Gadekar told BetaKit in an interview that the move was a natural next-step for CloudOn, which debuted its iPad app in early January.

“The very first step of getting towards mobile productivity is getting you the application you want on the device you care about, and so that’s where we started,” Gadekar told BetaKit about the company’s progression. “We initially started off with taking Microsoft Office, the king of productivity apps, and making it available on the first device, which was the iPad, and we connected it to Dropbox, because that was the most successful cloud storage provider.” CloudOn has since added Box and Google Drive support in terms of cloud storage options, and Gadekar said that customers, especially in the enterprise, were now asking mostly for a solution that also works with Android-powered tablets.

Gadekar said he sees his company as being well-positioned to help enterprise customers and consumers alike unlock the potential of the cloud by bringing a platform-tailored solution for working with files and applications they’ve come to depend on. So, for instance, Gadekar envisions a future where CloudOn helps workers have complete portability and control over cloud-based documents and file-systems as they move from locally installed versions of Office on a Windows or Mac desktop, to virtualized software redesigned for touch-based input on tablets.

“Productivity was clearly defined and owned by Microsoft in the PC era,” he explained, describing the company’s larger motivations. “I think that it’s up for grabs in the mobile productivity era, because it is in flux. Files are being mobilized, apps are being mobilized, there’s fragmentation of the OS space, and there’s this whole social framework; companies like Facebook have clearly changed the ways people collaborate and communicate and share information.”

CloudOn isn’t the only player in virtualization. Companies like Parallels and VMware have offered desktop OS virtual machines for some time now, and streaming gaming provider OnLive recently made a move into a similar iPad-based offering, which runs a version of MS Office on its own servers and beams that directly to a user’s device. But Parallels and VMware focus on delivering a desktop-tailored experience, and OnLive has run into issues regarding how it licenses its product. CloudOn made sure to have all its licenses with Microsoft arranged upfront, and its focus is on mobile user experience first, not as an afterthought or second strategy.

The company currently offers CloudOn on both iPad and Android platforms for free, but Gadekar told us that they’ve made users aware for some time now that eventually the service will have paid tiered, reserving some features for users who sign up on a subscription basis. Gadekar also acknowledges that interest from enterprise customers has been immense, and that angle represents possibly a bigger eventual revenue opportunity than selling to consumers directly.

CloudOn has no shortage of targets for expansion; if it can bring top personal and enterprise productivity apps from the desktop to touch-based devices in a way that makes sense to users, it’ll continue to see big numbers in terms of downloads and engagement. Of course, the engineering and licensing challenges represent a significant hurdle, but the team has already demonstrated an ability to make smart decisions in navigating this rocky terrain.

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