Reading the Microsoft Office Web Apps fine print

Summary:In preparation for the Office 2010 rollout, Microsoft has made available for download a number of free product guides in PDF format. One in which many Office customers and tire-kickers are likely to be quite interested is the 46-page Office Web Apps Product Guide.

Later today, April 22, Microsoft is slated to make available to TechNet and MSDN subscribers the release-to-manufacturing version of Office 2010.

In preparation for the Office 2010 rollout, Microsoft has made available for download a number of free product guides in PDF format. One in which many Office customers and tire-kickers are likely to be quite interested is the Office Web Apps Product Guide.

Office Web Apps are designed to be companions to Microsoft Office. They provide a way to to view, edit, and share files right from a Web browser (Internet Explorer 7 or later for Windows; Safari 4 or later for Mac; and Firefox 3.5 or later for Windows, Mac, or Linux).

Microsoft has been doling out its Office Web Apps story in a piecemeal and fairly confusing way over the past two years. It was never entirely clear exactly clear (to me, at least) exactly which functionality -- view, edit, save, print, etc. -- would be possible for the four products comprising the Office Web Apps suite.

The four apps Microsoft has said will be part of both the consumer and the business versions of Office Web Apps are Word Web, Excel Web, PowerPoint Web and OneNote Web. It was only after skimming the Product Guide that I realized a couple of things.

First, the consumer version of Office Web Apps did not RTM along with the rest of the Office 2010 suite last week. The consumer version is the free, ad-supported version of the Office Web Apps suite that users will be able to access via their Windows Live Skydrive and Hotmail services.

Office Web Apps for business users did RTM, however. The business version requires SharePoint Server 2010 in order to be used by a customer on-premises, or can be used as a hosted subscription service managed by Microsoft. Those wanting to run Office Web Apps on premises must purchase a volume license version of Office Professional Plus 2010 or Office Standard 2010 to get a license for Office Web Apps. Microsoft hasn't yet explained or detailed how much it cost (per user/per month) to run Office Web Apps as a hosted service.

"For consumers, on the Windows Live environment, Office Web Apps will remain in technical preview until availability," a corporate spokesperson told me, when I double-checked on final-bit availability. We still don't know exactly when Windows Live Wave 4 -- the version supporting Office Web Apps -- will be released to the Web, other than "some time later this calendar year."

Secondly, OneNote Web -- the Webified version of Microsoft's OneNote note-taking application -- isn't there yet at all in the consumer version. In other words, it is not even in technical preview. Nor is the abilility to edit a Word Web application. I realized this after noticing a footnote on page two of the Product Guide:

"For Office Web Apps on Windows Live, OneNote Web App and editing via the Word Web App will become available in the second half of calendar year 2010."

There are other interesting caveats and footnotes throughout the 46-page document. Footnote 9, page 44, for example, discusses the ability to coauthor documents -- one of Office Web Apps' big selling points:

"Co-authoring for Word 2010, PowerPoint 2010, and OneNote 2010 files that are saved to a Windows Live SkyDrive folder will become available in the second half of calendar year 2010."

What about printing from Office Web Apps? I heard late last year that Word Web would be the only one of the four apps that would support printing. In fact, it looks like printing will be supported at different levels, in different ways, according to the Guide:

"You can print a document from Word Web App in view mode. To do this, click the File tab on the command bar and then click Print. To print from Excel, PowerPoint, or OneNote Web Apps, use the print command in your Web browser."

I assume the Microsoft Docs application -- a version of Office Web Apps that is tailored for Facebook, a beta of which Microsoft unveiled on April 21 -- will have the same limitations as the consumer version of Office Web Apps.

Any beta testers of either the consumer or business version of Office Web Apps have any other "gotchas" to share?

Topics: Software, Cloud, Collaboration, Microsoft

About

Mary Jo Foley has covered the tech industry for 30 years for a variety of publications, including ZDNet, eWeek and Baseline. She is the author of Microsoft 2.0: How Microsoft plans to stay relevant in the post-Gates era (John Wiley & Sons, 2008). She also is the cohost of the "Windows Weekly" podcast on the TWiT network. Got a tip? Se... Full Bio

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