Microsoft makes tweaks to Office Web Apps with Office 15

A new Office Web Apps Server is part of the next version of Microsoft's coming Office 15 productivity suite.
Written by Mary Jo Foley, Senior Contributing Editor

Microsoft will be making some under-the-hood changes to how its Office Web Apps -- the Webified versions of Microsoft's Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote -- work with the coming "Wave 15" productivity apps.

I mentioned in passing in a post about SharePoint Online 15 last week that Microsoft will be evolving Office Web Apps into a new and separate server product. Now I have a few more details.

Users currently can access Office Web Apps in a handful of ways. They can use Internet Explorer, Firefox, Chrome and/or Safari to access them for free through SkyDrive, Hotmail and Docs.com. Business users can host Office Web Apps on SharePoint on-premises and/or access them as part of their Office 365 cloud plans.

With Office 15/SharePoint 15, Microsoft is introducing a new separate product, known as Office Web Apps Server. This server will be able to serve multiple SharePoint farms for viewing and editing documents. In addition, a server or a farm running Office Web Apps will be able to view files stored across data stores, including those in Microsoft server products like SharePoint Server, Exchange Server and Lync; URL-accessible file servers; and certain third-party stores that integrate (like EMC Documentum, IBM FileNet, OpenText and Oracle).

The thinking behind the move is by separating Office Web Apps from SharePoint, administrators will be able to manage and update Office Web Apps separately from SharePoint. They'll also be able serve multiple SharePoint farms, along with Exchange Server and Lync Server, from one Office Web Apps Server environment.

So what about Office Mobile Web Apps -- yet another Office Web Apps variant, but one that is specific to mobile phones and mobile browsers? As of the SharePoint 15 Technical Preview, the new Office Web Apps Server, and not SharePoint Server, will be what enables the mobile version of Office Web Apps.

All of this info in this post is based on what I've been able to glean about the technical preview version of the next version of Office, Office servers and Office 365, which Microsoft released to select testers in January. So far, I don't have any information about what Microsoft is changing above the covers -- i.e., on the user interface or consumer-facing feature fronts -- with Office Web Apps. A public beta of Office 15/SharePoint 15 is due this summer, however. Microsoft hasn't shared a release to manufacturing date for Office 15, but I continue to hear the target is late in calendar 2012.

Microsoft officials are declining to comment on any Office 15 features at this time.

More Office 15 information:

Windows SuperSite's Office 15 technical preview series Whatever happened to the Office 15 'Moorea' app? Microsoft Office 15 apps to include 'touch mode' Details begin to leak on Microsoft SharePoint Online 2013 Microsoft SharePoint 15: A 2012 release target, an app marketplace and more

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