Microsoft moves closer to launching free 'Office Online'

Office Online, Microsoft's rebranded Office Web Apps, are inching closer toward launch.
Written by Mary Jo Foley, Senior Contributing Editor

Microsoft is moving closer to relaunching its Office Web Apps offering as "Office Online."


Check out the screen shot of Microsoft's "compare" page for its consumer Office offerings. (Thanks to Livesino.net's founder Yan Zhu for sharing the URL.)

Office Online is listed prominently as the free option, alongside Office 365 Home Premium (for $9.99 per month) and Office 365 University (for $79.99 for four years). Clicking on the "Learn More" button under Office Online currently takes the user to the Office Web Apps page.

Microsoft has offered Office Web Apps -- the Webified versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote that work in a variety of browsers -- since 2010. Company officials have had problems explaining to normal users how to find and use these apps. Up until now, Microsoft has touted Office Web Apps more as a feature of SkyDrive, its cloud-storage offering soon to be rebranded OneDrive, and/or as an Office 365 feature.

From the chart above, it's clear Microsoft is going to try to make Office Online more discoverable and understandable by the general public. It also seems that Microsoft considers this Office Online rebranding part of Microsoft's next Office wave (codenamed Office 16), give that "O16" is part of the URL path for the new compare site.

In related news, LiveSide is reporting on a couple of new features that are likely to be part of OneDrive. According to LiveSide, co-owned folders will be part of the revamped Microsoft cloud-storage service. And Microsoft is planning to make some new "bonus referral" offers available to get more users across all platforms make use of OneDrive, LiveSide said. 

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