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Microsoft to offer online-only Office, Outlook on Chromebooks

Starting on Sept. 18, Chromebook users will have to rely on the web-based versions of the popular Microsoft apps. Google welcomed the move as better for Chromebook users.

Starting Sept. 18, Microsoft will offer only the web-based version of its productivity suite Office and its email client Outlook for Chromebooks.

Last week, Microsoft released instructions for running Office and Outlook through the Chromebook's browser, saying customers will sign into the apps through their Microsoft accounts.

Google responded to the announcement with a statement saying Chromebook users will benefit from the change. "People love Chrome OS because it provides a speedy, secure and simple computing experience and helps them stay connected while they work, study and stay entertained," the company said.

Office, which has about 1.2 billion Microsoft Office users worldwide, includes Word, PowerPoint and Excel.

Chromebook users who are adamant about using an Office app can do so through virtualization software like Parallels. According to the community site XDA Developers, Outlook app users have features not in the online version, such as the Data Analysis ToolPak in Excel.

During the pandemic, Chromebook sales have soared among schools that have bought the inexpensive computers for students forced to attend classes online. Business sales haven't taken off, but Google has entered into partnerships to promote the product in the enterprise space.

Constellation Research analyst Holger Mueller said developers will likely benefit from not supporting two versions of Office and Outlook for Chromebooks. "It ultimately will benefit all users, as more Microsoft developers can focus on a single code line," he said.

Maxim Tamarov is a news writer covering mobile and end-user computing. He previously wrote for The Daily News in Jacksonville, N.C., and the Sun Transcript in Winthrop, Mass. He graduated from Northeastern University with a degree in journalism. He can be found on Twitter at @MaximTamarov.

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