Microsoft seeks a name for its new Office Web Apps suite

Microsoft is surveying potential customers as to what it should name its forthcoming Office Web Applications suite and is sharing a few more positioning details of that soon-to-be-unveiled offering.
Written by Mary Jo Foley, Senior Contributing Editor

Microsoft is surveying potential customers as to what it should name its forthcoming Office Web Applications suite.

As LiveSide.Net is reporting, among the handful of Office Web Apps brand names under consideration are Microsoft Ensemble, Microsoft Optro, Microsoft ArcLight, Microsoft Offsite and Microsoft Equipt. (Yes, they are in the midst of killing off the current Equipt subscription service. But why let an already trademarked name go to waste?)

Microsoft also is sharing a bit more positioning information about the forthcoming suite of Web-hosted Word, PowerPoint, Excel and OneNote apps that it is expected to release to a wider group of testers in mid-July, as part of the Office 2010 Community Technology Preview.

According to a Web survey which seems to be aimed more at IT pros and developers than consumers, Microsoft is clearly positioning Office Web Apps as complements to client-based Office, not as a replacement to it. The survey asks which of the above-mentioned names does the best job of describing an offering that would compete with Google Apps, Google's hosted app suite aimed at business users.

Microsoft is expected to make Office Web Apps a free, ad-supported suite for individuals, but a paid, subscription-based service for enterprise customers.

The survey also highlights some of the forthcoming integration between Microsoft Office and Office Web Apps that Microsoft is incorporating into the Web-based product. The Office Web Apps release will provide users with synchronization of e-mail, calendar and contact items between Web browsers (not just Internet Explorer, but also Safari and Firefox), desktop applications (via Outlook) and mobile devies (Windows Mobile phones, Blackberries and iPhones).

Office Web Apps also will allow users to get their voicemails delivered to their e-mail inboxes, allowing them to listen or read a transcription of their messages; store and share documents over the Web; and communicate via "business-grade" instant messaging tools that are connected to Outlook address books, the survey says.

I think a number of testers -- and ultimately, users -- are going to be a bit let down by Office Web Apps. Microsoft officials have been touting them as Web-based versions of existing Office apps. But from what I'm hearing from my sources, these Web apps are definitely more like service complements to Office than alternatives to it. It sounds like SharePoint is the unheralded middleman in the Office Web Apps scenario, and processes like saving and printing documents may not be possible without going through SharePoint first.

Microsoft officials aren't discussing particulars regarding Office Web Apps, although they are expected to share more details (and code) at the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference in New Orleans in mid-July.

Which of the potential new names for Office Web Apps do you think Microsoft should choose? What kinds of capabilities do you think the Office Web Apps suite must have to be a real competitor to Google Apps?

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