Microsoft and Facebook announce the launch of Docs for Facebook, an online applications platform beta that lets Facebook users create and share Word, Excel and PowerPoint documents. FUSE Labs, a Microsoft division devoted to building software with a social connectivity focus, took four months to build the beta. The announcement coincides with the start of Facebook's F8 conference in San Francisco, where the social networking company is emphasizing the increasingly social and collaborative nature of the Web.
Microsoft and Facebook have launched the beta version of Docs for Facebook,
an online applications platform that lets Facebook users create and share Word,
Excel and PowerPoint documents. The launch represents yet another escalation in
the cloud-based productivity arena, where Microsoft finds itself in competition
against Google and a growing host of smaller competitors.
The announcement was timed to coincide with the opening of Facebook's F8
conference in San Francisco.
"Built on Microsoft Office 2010, the Docs app enables Facebook users
for the first time to create and share Microsoft Office documents directly with
their Facebook friends, using the Office tools they already know," Lili
Cheng, director of Microsoft's FUSE Labs, wrote April 21 on the FUSE
Cheng wrote, "The fact that we've been able to adapt the Office 2010
'Web Apps' technology to work directly with Facebook truly speaks to the
flexibility and power not just of the Facebook platform, but also of the Office
system's rich 'contextual collaboration' capabilities."
It took four months for the FUSE (Future Social Experiences) Labs team to
deliver the beta, from concept to implementation, according to Cheng,
Users can navigate to Docs.com
log in using Facebook Connect. From that point, a variety of options present
themselves: Users can view documents being shared by their friends, or else
create or upload a document. Once a document's been created and edited, it can
be shared with any Facebook friends selected via an interface on the right-hand
side of the screen. The application also includes granular controls for which
friends can edit a document.
In October 2009, Microsoft Chief Software Architect Ray Ozzie announced the
creation of FUSE Labs
with its focus on "software and services that
are centered on social connectivity, real-time experiences and rich
media," according to a Microsoft release at the time.
In an Oct. 8 internal memo leaked to several news outlets, Ozzie wrote that
FUSE Labs would "bring more coherence and capability to those advanced
development projects where they're already actively collaborating with product
groups to help them succeed with 'leapfrog' efforts." Initial plans for
FUSE Labs involved about 80 employees from Microsoft Startup Labs, based in Massachusetts,
along with the Creative Systems Group and Rich Media Labs.
Ozzie's restructuring suggested an increased interest on Microsoft's part in
social platforms and applications in a business context. In his internal memo,
Ozzie suggested that FUSE Labs would serve as a way to quickly capitalize on
social computing opportunities developed by Microsoft Research and other
divisions: "The lab will prioritize efforts where its capabilities can be
applied to areas where the company's extant missions, structures, tempo or risk
might otherwise cause us to miss a material threat or opportunity."
Such a material threat-or maybe an opportunity-presents itself in the form
of cloud-based productivity platforms. In an effort to counter rising competition
from products such as Google Apps, Microsoft
is introducing stripped-down, browser-accessible editions
Excel, Word and PowerPoint for Windows Live subscribers. This new collaboration
with Facebook likely represents another facet of that strategy.
Google has also been attempting to build out its Google Apps service, which
has been gaining traction with a number of businesses and government agencies.
On March 5, Google announced that it had acquired DocVerse, maker of an
application that allows groups to collaborate online on Word, Excel and
PowerPoint documents, potentially shifting the competition between the two IT
titans into another gear if Google decides to integrate DocVerse's technology
into Google Apps.