Outlook Web App in screenshots: Google doesn't have a chance

With Office 2010 to be released today, this article takes a look at the under-reported Outlook Web App, which plays an integral part of Live@edu; the Google-email killer.

Outlook 2010 is being released today. However, even though the new web applications that Microsoft has bundled together with the new version, there hasn't been much attention to their web email successor, named Outlook Web App.

Google and Microsoft do like a good fight, mostly between themselves to be fair. Google has the search marketshare, something that Microsoft wants; whereas Microsoft has the operating system marketshare, something Google is trying to dent.

I agree with Chris Dawson, my education counterpart on ZDNet, in that OpenOffice is dead, and so is Google Docs; which in my view, will not be able to compete with the Microsoft 'alternative'.

Students are a big playing field for the two companies at the moment, and as the two have their rival services being pitched at a university a day, Google is lagging behind and the chances are it will never catch up.

Gallery To see the final, released version of Microsoft's new web email, Outlook Web App, which is a key part in their student Live@edu service, head on over to the screenshot gallery.

For a user who will be automatically migrated to Microsoft's new student email service, Live@edu in the next month, I revisit past posts which display the initial functionality and overall features, but in a live, more refined and better dedicated setting.

What's what, exactly

To start, when a student begins their voyage with this service, there are three seemingly contradictory and confusing services. To set the record straight, Live@edu is the suite of services available for students including the Windows Live applications and Outlook Live.

On that note, Outlook Live is specifically the email service infrastructure that students will use to access their email, which runs on Exchange Server 2010. The Outlook Web App is the web application they will use to send and receive emails and instant messages; and will be widely available to Office 2010 users.

The migration steps

When you migrate over, your university email address becomes your Windows Live ID - so you can just login to Outlook Live straight away. You'll also have access to the other Windows Live services like SkyDrive, but seeing as the combined Outlook Web App in Outlook Live, plus the rest of the Office Web Appps in SkyDrive, they don't like talking to each other all that much.

From any computing running Outlook 2010 (more likely to be from home than a university machine, because licence agreements mean they'll be running Office 2007 and Vista for a while yet), as soon as you save something to the web via your SkyDrive using your Outlook Live email address and password combination, you'll have automatic access to Office Web Apps.

However, Microsoft tells me that soon, Hotmail users will be able to automatically open Office email attachments in SkyDrive, something which Outlook Live users will also be able to do in due time. There is a limited preview available within your Outlook Live view to see certain file types as a read-only documents using the "view as web page" link, but it doesn't allow you to modify them in any way yet.

Why the Windows Live integration?

Some may criticise Microsoft for requiring users to sign up their university email address as a Windows Live ID whereas Google users can pretty much just sign in with no additional hassle.

There is one quite important reasons for this. It allows seamless integration with other Windows Live services - including Messenger and SkyDrive - which Live@edu will accustom. You could sign in to the Outlook Web App without a problem, but there would be no instant messaging features because it would require some communication with Windows Live Messenger, for example.

The weeks to come

In the next few weeks, around this time next month, my institution, the University of Kent, just as the academic year completes, will roll over all 17,000 undergraduate students including myself, from their in-house email system to the new Live@edu service.

When that happens, it'll be an interesting inside-look into how the average university migrates their entire email system, with views and perspectives from the IT staff internally, and opinions and reactions to students around campus.