Microsoft Skirts Office Web App Confusion With New

With new, Microsoft's rebranding efforts spread to the online versions of its productivity apps.

Cloud shift

OneDrive (formerly SkyDrive) isn't the only Microsoft product to undergo a brand adjustment this week. The Redmond, Wash.-based tech titan has also changed the name of its Office Web Apps to Office Online and issued some updates to help commemorate the occasion.

Hints of the free Office Online offering surfaced earlier this month when Microsoft let slip information on Office Online packages on the company's Website. Mary Jo Foley of ZDNet posted a screenshot, which listed Office Online, before Microsoft took down the page.

The launch appears to be part of a broader product refresh. "It also seems that Microsoft considers this Office Online rebranding part of Microsoft's next Office wave (codenamed Office 16), given that 'O16' is part of the URL path for the new compare site," added Foley.

Amanda Lefebvre, a Microsoft product marketing manager, said in a blog post, "An online version of the Office you know and trust has been available for quite a while, but with today's updates, we've made your Office Online experience easier to find, share and collaborate with others."

The new name should help clear up some confusion surrounding the use of the term "apps" to describe the company's cloud-based, online versions of Word, Excel and PowerPoint, said Lefebvre. Customers were puzzled by the possibility of having to download software or visit an app store.

Office Online better encapsulates how Microsoft delivers the browser-based software, according to Lefebvre. The company is "Office Web Apps to Office Online so you know where to find our free online experience," she said. Office Online's building blocks are, as expected, now called Word Online, Excel Online, PowerPoint Online and OneNote Online.

Microsoft is also making Office Online easier to find via, "a discoverable and shareable Web page so that you can start using Office Online right away," added Lefebvre. To get users up and running quickly, offers hundreds of templates for Word, PowerPoint and Excel. "Budgets, resumes, calendars and more, all available online, for free at," boasted Lefebvre.

The Office Online app switcher allows users to jump between Word, and OneDrive, for a "more cohesive Microsoft experience," she added. Making a selection from the site's dropdown menu pops open a new tab, enabling switching between services. Users can publish public Office documents online and embed documents, presentations and interactive Excel charts into a Web page or blog post.

Office Online supports co-authoring between cloud-based and desktop Office applications. "When collaborating with Office, you get the full power of Word, PowerPoint, Excel and OneNote on your desktop AND the collaborative power of the online versions of the same applications," wrote Lefebvre.

Unlike the paid versions of Office 365, Office Online does not offer downloadable versions of Office software, nor does it include mobile apps. File storage is provided by OneDrive's 7GB of cloud-based storage capacity.

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez is a contributor to eWEEK and the IT Business Edge Network, the network for technology professionals. Previously, he served as a managing editor for the network of...