Android gets Microsoft Office Mobile, but there’s a catch (or two)

Android(s goog) devices have a new productivity app to choose from and this time it’s Microsoft(s msft) Office Mobile. The software, which launched on iOS in June, is freely available in the Google Play Store as of Wednesday. It’s not free to use, however, and is limited to Android phones; the software can’t be installed on Android tablets.
Office Mobile Excel AndroidMicrosoft touts Office Mobile as the official companion app to Microsoft Office. With it, you can view or edit in Word, Excel and PowerPoint. Essentially, I see the product more as a companion to the Office 365 subscription plan. Why? Because you can’t use the app on your Android phone without paying for Office 365.
Microsoft has the same restriction for the iOS(s aapl) version so it isn’t playing favorites among competing mobile platforms. That is, if you don’t count its own Window Phone platform, which has Office Mobile pre-installed and pre-activated. You can use it on Windows Phone without paying for Office 365. Regardless, I don’t think the subscription is a bad deal for those who want or need to use Office on the go.
I don’t understand, however, why Office Mobile is limited to phones only. Here’s what Microsoft says in regards to tablets:

“We built Office Mobile for Android phones to ensure a great Office experience when using a small screen device. ¬†Therefore, you will not be able to download and install Office Mobile for Android phones on an Android tablet from the Google Play store. ¬†If you have an Android tablet, we recommend using the Office Web Apps which provide the best Office experience on a tablet.”

It shouldn’t be too difficult for Office Mobile to run on an Android tablet; Google provides tools that allow Android apps to optimize themselves for various screen sizes and resolutions. So this isn’t likely a programmatic issue. And since the iPad can run iPhone apps and scale them up, you actually can run Office Mobile on an Apple tablet. Android tablets are on the outside looking in this time around: I checked in the Google Play store and it won’t let me install the software on any of my Android tablets.
I suspect if you really want to use Office on a tablet, Microsoft would rather you use the app on its tablets, which could provide the Surface slates a sorely needed sales boost.