Microsoft Office Web Apps still cloaked in mystery

Microsoft online apps an adjunct for corporations

Microsoft Monday shed little light on its forthcoming Office Web Applications, which were announced nine months ago, leaving more questions about the depth of features, their integration with Office on the desktop, how they would run inside a corporate network, and how they stack up to online alternatives.

Microsoft had no beta test code to offer attendees at its annual Partner Conference, where it unveiled a technical preview of Office 2010. Office Web Applications will be delivered as part of the software in the second half of 2010. Microsoft isn't planning a private beta test of Office Web Applications until August.

In fact, Monday's message was strikingly similar to what the company said in October when it announced Web-based versions of its popular Office suite.

The Office Web Apps -- Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote -- are targeted at online alternatives including Google Docs/Apps and Yahoo's Zoho.

Microsoft did announce the applications will be made available in three ways: free through Windows Live, free to Volume Licensing customers with Software Assurance to run as a service inside their firewalls, and for a fee via Microsoft Online Services in the same hosted manner that Exchange and SharePoint are delivered.

Forrester Research analyst Ted Schadler says he thinks Microsoft is building an augmentation strategy that will not cannibalize its desktop Office franchise. Microsoft said in October that Office Web Applications would not allow offline use.

"You have to have a desktop client for reasons of continuity," Schadler says. "For people who want to work offline, for reasons of confidence and being able to back up and have access to files. But there are times when a Web client makes sense and a lot of those are collaborative situations, when you are working on a document you want a lot of people to see simultaneously, or to know you are always looking at the latest version. The other thing is access to documents when you are not on your work PC."

Microsoft is positioning Office Web Applications as completing the puzzle of documents available anywhere -- PC, browser or mobile device.

Microsoft was coy on most everything else to do with Office Web Applications.

A Microsoft spokesman says the company is not sharing any level of detail about the features of the applications beyond the fact they will have "essential editing and formatting" functions. Microsoft described the applications as "lightweight" versions of desktop Office applications.

Microsoft did say that SharePoint will be the back-end repository for companies that choose to run the Office Web Applications inside their firewalls. Those applications, the spokesman says, would be hosted in much the same way Outlook Web Access is run from back-end servers.

SharePoint is also rumored to be a required hub that will support printing and other features from the online Office applications and most likely would be the staging platform for the applications themselves because it can act as a Web server.A video that Microsoft made available showed the applications at work and mentioned that Office Web Applications would run on Internet Explorer, Firefox and Safari.

Microsoft is lining up to battle online competitors such as Google Docs, which are available for free; Google Apps Premier Edition, a $50 per use suite of applications that include Google Docs; and Yahoo's Zoho suite.

Office Web Applications don't look to be as sophisticated or feature rich as those offerings, but then Google and Yahoo do not stack up to the desktop version of Office.

Microsoft says Office Web Applications will be free to some 400 million Windows Live consumers, 90 million corporate Office customers with Software Assurance consumers and 510 million existing Office users via online hosting.

Join the newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Rocket to Success - Your 10 Tips for Smarter ERP System Selection

Tags Microsoftmicrosoft officeMicrosoft Office 2010

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

John Fontana

Network World
Show Comments


James Cook University - Master of Data Science Online Course

Learn more >


Victorinox Werks Professional Executive 17 Laptop Case

Learn more >



Back To Business Guide

Click for more ›

Brand Post

Bitdefender 2018

Roam freely in the digital world. Critically acclaimed performance and security at your fingertips.

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles


PCW Evaluation Team

Louise Coady

Brother MFC-L9570CDW Multifunction Printer

The printer was convenient, produced clear and vibrant images and was very easy to use

Edwina Hargreaves

WD My Cloud Home

I would recommend this device for families and small businesses who want one safe place to store all their important digital content and a way to easily share it with friends, family, business partners, or customers.

Walid Mikhael

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

It’s easy to set up, it’s compact and quiet when printing and to top if off, the print quality is excellent. This is hands down the best printer I’ve used for printing labels.

Ben Ramsden

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

Brainstorming, innovation, problem solving, and negotiation have all become much more productive and valuable if people can easily collaborate in real time with minimal friction.

Sarah Ieroianni

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

The print quality also does not disappoint, it’s clear, bold, doesn’t smudge and the text is perfectly sized.

Ratchada Dunn

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The Huddle Board’s built in program; Sharp Touch Viewing software allows us to easily manipulate and edit our documents (jpegs and PDFs) all at the same time on the dashboard.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?