Microsoft unleashes Office Web Apps to the cloud

Microsoft has finally launched its free version of Office Web Apps in a few language versions around the globe.

The Google Docs-targeted, cut-down, cloudy version of the outfit's all-conquering Office suite is initially available via Windows Live SkyDrive at office.live.com to residents of the US, Canada, Great Britain and Ireland, who have a Windows Live email address.

Users elsewhere will be able to access the programs on offer but will have to suffer the English language or US Spanish, or Canadian French. Microsoft said more languages and locales will be added over the coming months.

Office Web Apps allows users to create view, edit, and share Word, PowerPoint, Excel, and OneNote files directly in their browser.

The web suite requires Internet Explorer 7 or later and also supports Chrome on Windows and Mac, Firefox 3.5+ on Windows, Mac, and Linux, or Safari 4 and up on the Mac.

The applications can also be accessed using mobile browsers including IE on Windows Mobile 5 or later, Safari 4 on iPhone 3G or 3Gs, BlackBerry 4.x and later, Nokia S60, NetFront 3.4, 3.5 and later, Opera Mobile 8.65 and later, and Openwave 6.2, 7.0 and later, Microsoft said.

The cut-down cloud apps will get a further boost for users of Office 2001 and integration with Microsoft's Hotmail email service will be complete when the revamped version of that makes an appearance in the summer.

We'll be bringing you a full review of the software in action and seeing how it compares to Google Docs in the very near future.