Microsoft takes Office online

Microsoft Office users soon will be able to open, create and
edit files using "lightweight" hosted versions of Word, Excel,
PowerPoint and OneNote, Microsoft has announced.


Moreover, those online applications will be accessible on the
fly, via smart phones, Web browsers or remote PCs. The service will
complement Office Mobile applications and installed versions of
Office.


Last week, at its Professional Developers Conference in Los
Angeles, Microsoft announced that it would add Office Live to its
growing list of online apps as part of its "software plus services"
strategy.


The hosted Office apps will sit on top of the growing Microsoft
Live family of online products. The viewing and sharing of Office
files is already available through Microsoft Office Live Workspace,
currently in beta release. However, users of Office Live Workspace
still need a copy of Microsoft Office if they want to edit and save
those shared files.


The beta version of Office Live Workspace is being used by more
than a million people, according to Microsoft's announcement.


It's unclear how Microsoft plans to price the new
lightweight hosted Office apps, but the planned release suggests
that Microsoft is plunging ahead with its overall software plus
services strategy.


"We are on a path to deliver all our technology as
software-plus-services, and today is an important milestone in this
journey," Microsoft Senior Vice President Chris Capossela said in a
released statement.


Capossela noted that Microsoft has been offering services such
as hosted Exchange, Outlook Web and Live Meeting for "more than 10
years." The company introduced Microsoft Online earlier this year,
and mega-companies such as Coca-Cola, Blockbuster and Energizer
were quick to adopt the online strategy, he said.


Capossela explained that users typically access various
computing devices and "they want a seamless, synchronized
experience across those devices to help them work smarter, faster,
and better."


The hosted Office can store more than 1,000 Microsoft Office
documents in a password-protected environment, according to
Microsoft's marketing materials. The service synchronizes contacts,
tasks and event lists with Microsoft Outlook.


Hosted files are protected by Forefront Security for SharePoint
and require a Windows Live ID and password to access. The user can
control permissions and manage which files are available to
specific users, according to Microsoft's Web site.


Office Web applications will be available to individual
consumers through Office Live, either by subscription or ad
funded.


Businesses can access hosted Office apps via "subscription and
existing volume licensing programs," according to a Microsoft press
release.


Capossela contends that Microsoft's partners will still benefit
from selling desktop versions of Office and that when the next
version of Office is released there will be a whole new set of
Office Web applications that will increase opportunities for OEMs
and retail partners.


Availability dates for the hosted Microsoft Office apps were not
specified. However, Microsoft plans to release a "private Technical
Preview of Office Web applications later this year," according to a
Microsoft press release.


About the Author

Herb Torrens is a freelance writer based in Southern California.

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