Microsoft Previews Online Office Web Apps

Software giant Microsoft has released the online version of its Office Web Apps to a number of Windows Live users, albeit in a limited technical preview mode.

In a post written on Microsoft's Official Webapps blog, Nick Simons, the Program Manager of Office Web Apps, said that the initial functionality was modest but that it would be expanding over time.

More Windows Live users will be invited as the release date of Office 2010 approaches; Office Web apps will be made publicly available at the same time as the shrink-wrapped version of Office 2010.

Only three Office applications are currently available - Word, Excel and Powerpoint. Intriguingly, testers won't be able to edit or create Word files and they will only be able to edit existing Powerpoint documents.

These functionalities will be added at a later stage. But users will be able to view, edit and create Excel Spreadsheets. Furthermore, Microsoft has removed the ability for Word to publish documents to websites, wikis and blogs.

There are also plans to add the OneNote web app indicating that Microsoft is very likely to elevate the importance of the product. Microsoft has gone to great length to make the Office apps as usable as the desktop-bound versions and has even included proofing tools (spell-checking and AutoCorrect).

A spokesperson told online publication The Register that further features will be added at a later stage including improved integration and compatibility with Office 2010.

Our Comments

Microsoft is taking a calculated risk with this Web Apps suite. Make them too compelling and users will start to use them more than their desktop cousins; apply too many restrictions and see your customers flock to other online ventures like Google Apps or Zoho Office.

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