Microsoft will soon transition users away from native Office and Outlook Android apps for Chrome OS towards the web versions of the services, according to a statement it shared with About Chromebooks.
“In an effort to provide the most optimized experience for Chrome OS/Chromebook customers," read the statement shared with the publication.
"Microsoft apps (Office and Outlook) will be transitioned to web experiences (Office.com and ) on September 18, 2021. This transition brings Chrome OS/Chromebook customers access to additional and premium features. Customers will need to sign in with their personal Microsoft Account or account associated with their Microsoft 365 subscription.”
This move isn't exactly a surprise, since Progressive Web Apps (PWA) offer more functionality and features than their app counterparts on Chrome OS. Google itself, transitioned some of its apps away from native to PWAs.
Where this complicates things is offline functionality. As the publication noted offline functionality in PWAs is pretty basic and most of the functionality requires you to be online. You will not be able to open existing or saved documents offline for example. The workaround seems to be to use Google Docs for editing Office files while offline, which is not ideal.
For people who are used to being online all the time, this change will not make a drastic difference to your work life. Most of Outlook and Office features carry over into the PWA and offer a much better experience than the native Android app on Chrome OS.Given how big deal offline doc editing is, we wouldn't be surprised if Microsoft announces a new offline mode sometime in the future.