Microsoft Office Web Apps: No test build until August

Many industry watchers were expecting July 13 to be Microsoft's coming-out party for Office Web Applications, the company's Web-centric version of its core Office apps (Word, Excel, poerPoint and OneNote) -- and head-to-head competitor with Google Docs. But that's not what's happening today.

Many industry watchers were expecting July 13 to be Microsoft's coming-out party for Office Web Applications, the company's Web-centric version of its core Office apps (Word, Excel, poerPoint and OneNote) -- and head-to-head competitor with Google Docs.

But there won't be an Office Web Apps tech preview test build coming today. Or even later this week. Invited testers (and not the general public) have to wait until some time in August for the Microsoft-sanctioned Office Web Apps test build.

(An unsanctioned test build of Office 2010, which included the Web Apps, leaked a couple of months ago. Microsoft has not responded to my query as to whether the Office Web Apps build will be the same as the one that leaked in May or a more recent build.)

Microsoft officials first mentioned publicly Office Web Applications in October 2008 at the company's Professional Developers Conference. Microsoft offered very few details about what kinds of functionality the Web Apps will deliver and not deliver. (Example: I've heard printing directly from and saving to those Apps won't be possible without passing through SharePoint Server.)

At its Worldwide Partner Conference, which kicks off on July 13, the company is providing some additional details about its distribution plans for Office Web Apps.

As company officials said last year, Microsoft will offer both paid and free versions of Office Web Apps when they ship in the first half of 2010. Consumers will be able to get them for free by downloading them via from the combined Windows Live/Office Live service. Software Assurance customers will have the added option of running the Office Web Apps on premise, accessing their on-premise SharePoint Servers. And Office Web Apps also will be accessible as a set of Microsoft-hosted services (under the Microsoft Online brand).

Using Microsoft math, Microsoft execs are calculating -- and touting -- that Office Web Apps, once they ship in the first half of 2010, will "be available to up to half a billion customers." They'll be available for free to 400 million Windows Live consumers; available via Software Assurance to 90 million Office annuity customers; and to the remaining 510 million existing Office customers via Microsoft Online services.

Microsoft also is running a number of potential final names for Office Web Applications past its customers. in the running: Office Ensemble, Office Equipt, Office Optro, Office Offline and Office ArcLight.