Office 2010 to hit networks and the web in style

Summary:The Office 2010 web applications throw online productivity into a new dimension by porting four of the most popular (and most useful) Office applications onto the web: Word, PowerPoint, Excel and OneNote.The online office-suite business - business, if you can call it that, since the main online office suites available are free - has been gaining strength from strength, with Google Docs now facing potential fall as Office moves to the web.

The Office 2010 web applications throw online productivity into a new dimension by porting four of the most popular (and most useful) Office applications onto the web: Word, PowerPoint, Excel and OneNote.

The online office-suite business - business, if you can call it that, since the main online office suites available are free - has been gaining strength from strength, with Google Docs now facing potential fall as Office moves to the web. Acrobat.com released their online office suite and Google Docs has been gaining dominance over the last year, but both threaten to be sidelined by Word, PowerPoint, Excel and OneNote being webified. Why use a rival office suite which cannot guarantee 100% compatibility with Office documents when the company behind the Office document can guarantee compatibility with its own files?

Gallery

To see a full screenshot gallery of the improved Office web applications as demonstrated in the following video, click here.

For those who are new to the new to the game, catch up with this video - it'll explain pretty much everything I'm talking about.

Now we're all on the same page, you can see how Office 2010 will be taking advantage of the web to bring users like you and me a better all-round experience, regardless of whether we're at home or on campus.

From what you have seen before, the video shows a lot of changes in the user interface and now shows actual functionality. Some of the things we have seen include:

  • PowerPoint broadcasting: not only will you be able to show your PowerPoint deck as an ordinary slideshow, you will be able to "broadcast" it through the network or Internet for others, for them to view in their browser without needing PowerPoint installed. Think of the broadcast in ordinary television broadcasting: you will be able to open up a link sent by the presenter of the slideshow which will open a browser for you to view the slideshow as it happens.

  • Office Home and Student edition , the low-cost Office version for the academic world, will include Word, PowerPoint, Excel and OneNote, according to my colleague Ed Bott. This is good news as these will also be the core applications for Office web applications. Wherever you go, you'll be able to carry on with what you are doing almost seamlessly. It is a shame it does not include Outlook, however, as Microsoft's move to provide students with Outlook Live would have proved to be a popular decision no doubt.

I did notice the main Office web applications user interface has a similar design to that of SharePoint. As SharePoint is being marketed as an entirely separate product, Office web applications may be based on SharePoint but will not be a replacement.

Liveside report that Office web applications will be available for purchase at some point as part of a hosted service. It will also be a product which can to be installed on a local, corporate or university network. It will be a free product delivered through Windows Live.

Office Live Workspaces will continue to run as it has done so far but will be integrated into Office web applications. It is not yet clear as to how this will work, but we will find out in due course. It is possible the underlying infrastructure of storage and collaboration will stick just with a new interface being the Office web applications.

If we are really lucky and cross all fingers and toes, I reckon there could well be some Live Mesh integration in here. Mesh? You remember Mesh, right? The functionality and development platform already exists so it wouldn't take too much effort to integrate online storage folders with existing offline collaborative workspaces.

It seems that SkyDrive storage will definitely be key in the online document storage area of Office web applications, which to me confirms even more than I already believed that this will be provided through Windows Live and not Office Live.

What is the key behind Office 2010's move to the web? Silverlight, of course. It wouldn't surprise me if Silverlight was created all those years ago just for this moment - to bring Office to the web. By using Silverlight to render the interface, it not only allows everything to run server side (there is an element of software plus services here) but across multiple platforms and browsers, including Safari and Firefox.

While Google Docs still uses AJAX and xHTML, Microsoft have taken a tip from Adobe by using Silverlight, the equivalent of their Flash, to render menus, words, images and buttons.

It is expected that the Office web applications will be available to try around the same time as Office 2010 goes into public beta. Until then, all we can do is excite ourselves with the possibilities that the Office web applications can bring us. In the meantime, Google should reassess their position in the online office suite sphere.

Topics: Browser, Collaboration, Microsoft, Networking, Software

About

Zack Whittaker writes for ZDNet, CNET, and CBS News. He is based in New York City.

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