Microsoft announced June 7 the availability of Office Web Apps on SkyDrive for users in the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada and Ireland. The ability to view and edit Word, PowerPoint, Excel and OneNote documents online, via the browser, precedes the consumer release of Office 2010 by a week, and suggests the importance that Microsoft has placed on a more cloud-based strategy for some of its flagship products.
Users can access the stripped-down, Web-based versions of those productivity programs via Office.Live.com. Once there, they can upload documents to the cloud, view and edit those documents, and collaborate on Excel and OneNote files in real-time. In addition, Microsoft provides the capability to view Word and PowerPoint documents on most smartphones. Two sub-features include version history, which allows the user to cycle through older edits of documents, and enhanced search, a more comprehensive drill-down into currently stored files.
Microsoft made Office 2010 and SharePoint 2010 available to business customers starting May 12, with a consumer rollout of the software scheduled for later in June. As with Windows 7, Microsoft faces the challenge of convincing users that Office 2010 is worth the upgrade from previous iterations; unlike Windows 7, which justified its existence as a replacement for the maligned Windows Vista and the aging-but-stable Windows XP, Office succeeds a stable and well-regarded release.
With that in mind, Microsoft has been pushing Office 2010 as the answer to a changing workplace. “Our employees expect the same technologies at home as in the marketplace,” Stephen Elop, president of Microsoft’s Business Division, told an audience during the software’s official New York unveiling on May 12. “They want all of these technologies to work very well and seamlessly together.”
According to Gartner, Microsoft held 94.23 percent of the productivity-software market in 2009, as measured by revenue. That represented a slight dip from 2007, when the company held 94.6 percent of the market. While that dwarfs competitors’ share, including Google with 0.09 percent, Microsoft also has cause for concern in the rise of cloud-based productivity apps by Google and other companies, which threaten to increase their market share as consumers and businesses gravitate toward a more Web-based lifestyle.
Office Web Apps represents Microsoft’s attempt to counterprogram Google Apps and other cloud-based programs. While the applications available through the browser are stripped-down, Microsoft is touting the ability of Office Web Apps combined with Office 2010 to enable off-line editing, and to co-author Word and PowerPoint documents using revision marks and rich features.
Microsoft’s TechEd Conference, running June 7-11 in New Orleans, has presented an opportunity for the company to tout its upcoming platforms to both developers and enterprise customers. Other products being pushed during the gathering’s first days include Windows Phone 7, which Microsoft hopes will compete effectively against both Apple and Google, despite CEO Steve Ballmer’s recent admission of the company’s missteps in the mobile space.