Paving the way for its Office Web Apps rollout, Microsoft is adding SharePoint Online to the services it offers students and academics as part of its Live@edu offering.
Microsoft made the announcement at the Educause conference in Denver, according to a posting on the Live@edu blog. The SharePoint Online service should be available to Live@edu subscribers for no additional cost some time next year.
Microsoft officials played up both the collaboration and conferencing capabilities and the Office Web Apps access as being behind the planned addition. Students and educators are a big audience for Google Docs and expected to be one of Microsoft's biggest group of initial adopters of Office Web Apps.
From the November 3 Live@edu blog post:
"In conjunction with the Live@edu program, we will be bringing a solution to market for students, based on SharePoint Online, for free. So what does that mean? Well, lets look at some possibilities:
"* Work with a class group on a research assignment – documents, background research, project plans can all be stored online and worked on from anywhere. "* Office Web Apps support means that a user can access Office files on almost any machine to simply view the content, or to make essential modifications. "* Microsoft Office integration ensures they get a rich, integrated experience with SharePoint Online and the Office Web Apps, if required… and of course offline access to files."
Microsoft officials have said they plan to offer three different modes of distribution for Office Web Apps -- Microsoft's Webified versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote -- due out by mid-2010. There will be a free, consumer-focused version that will be accessible via Microsoft's Windows Live SkyDrive service. There also will be two paid versions for business customers: A Microsoft-hosted version and an on-premises, user-hosted version. The two hosted versions will require SharePoint/SharePoint Online as part of the back-end infrastructure.
Microsoft already offers hosted Exchange email, among other Microsoft services, to Live@edu subscribers. The Exchange Online version for students/academics is known as "Outlook Live." There's no word yet on how Microsoft will rebrand the SharePoint Online offering that will be available via Live@edu. (Hat tip to Network World for the heads-up on the SharePoint and Live@edu news.)