Office 2010 to hit networks and the web in style

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.

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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

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6 comments
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  • I think you got it all the wrong way 'round...

    Thank you for giving us a wonderful presentation no MS rep could have
    bettered, but you are unfortunately living in a Microsoft dream world:
    Where Ajax and xhtml gets replaced by another proprietary plug-in
    technology that would guarantee Microsofts online and offline
    dominance forever and ever.

    It ain't gonna happen, standards will prevail in this case and people will
    quite happily be using the open source equivalents.

    Ken Fegore
    • Or Not

      .
      Qbt
    • Are there any open-source web office equivalents?

      Surely it wouldn't work really - what's the point in having an open source online office suite when you can't edit it? I say that, because you'd need to download it, change it how you wanted it to, upload it to a server - even then it won't have the same reliability that Google might have. Considering Acrobat.com works with Flash and Microsoft are going with Silverlight - what's so wrong with that?
      zwhittaker
      • What's wrong with it?

        It's from Microsoft. Which, depending on who you are, either makes it a non-starter or very attractive. Personally, I've from the latter group.

        I downloaded the technical preview this morning and have been playing around with it, it's extremely impressive. I do a lot of presenting and am therefore looking forward to the new transitions and "cinematic effects." It may even wean me away from Keynote for my presentations.

        I am also excited about the integration with Windows Live. If Microsoft can offer a free hosted service (and give me the ability to integrate with my own servers running the same software), that is a MAJOR win. I work in healthcare research, and due to HIPAA and privacy laws, hosting data in the cloud simply is not feasible.

        Though the Vista/Office 2007 migration was tremendously rocky, Windows 7 and Office 2010 appear to show that it was a sound investment.
        Rob Oakes
      • I think you got it all the wrong way 'round...

        Sorry for not replying earlier, I thought you would do your own
        research, but HTML 5 credible as a runtime for stand-alone
        applications.

        No proprietary plug-ins needed, database can be integrated offline.

        What is wrong with proprietary technology?

        Consider the way Microsoft was neglecting non-Windows platforms in
        regards to proprietary technology, also Adobe was neglecting Apple in
        regards to Flash development (which was a technology as many first
        picked up by Macintosh users), the differences in Java machine
        developments on different platforms.

        All the above examples, and I am sure there are plenty more of them,
        show that web technology can not be entrusted to proprietary
        interests. I think we learned that in the late nineties.

        There are standards available for online applications that mean you
        will never need a plug-in or specific browser for your online dealings
        anymore, why fall for the vapor of new proprietary jam tomorrow?
        Again?
        Ken Fegore
    • Why is it...

      If any of us are excited or impressed with something MS does, we are "deluded", "brain washed", "zealots" or just morons? But if the enthusiast jumps onto Linux and actually manages to get a simple task achieved in less than twice the time it would take on a PC (or even under OS X), ppl like you laud them with praise??

      In the real world, the idea is for the PC to be a [i]tool[/i], and the best tool is the one which allows the user to get things done with the most efficiency, not just makes them a "cool dude". Time is money, and when a user (especially in the business environment), needs to spend time, first hunting down an equivalent open-source equivalent that will even [i]run[/i] on their alternative OS, and them take the time to re-educate themselves on its usage, then spend twice as long to get even the basic tasks performed... the cost-to-time expense outweighs any savings on making the move in the first place!
      kaninelupus