May 132010
 

I’m going to hold off doing a big review of the Office 2010 Web apps until they are formally released – an event that should happen sometime mid-June, 2010. But I’ve seen and heard a lot of confusion over what they are, whether you need to own Office 2010 to use them, and what the different versions are.

First things first. The Office 2010 Web apps are free, cloud-based versions of the most popular Office 2010 applications – Word, Excel, and PowerPoint. You do not need to own the Office 2010 desktop suite in order to be able to use them. The Web apps offer a lighter feature set than their desktop companions, but the look and feel is very much like the desktop applications. They work inside a Web browser, much like Google Apps or some of the other web-based solutions out there. Right now, supported browsers include Internet Explorer, Firefox, and Safari. No word yet on Chrome or Operasupport.

While you don’t need to own the desktop suite, I’m personally looking forward to using Web apps as an extension of the regular applications. Since Office 2010 allows you to save documents to Microsoft SkyDrive (and other online repositories), it’s quite nice being able to work on a document in my office, save it to the Web, and then being able to view and do some editing on that document when I’m away from the office. All I need is an Internet connection.

While it may appear that there are different versions out there (you may hear talk of using them with SharePoint or with Facebook via docs.com), there is really only one version. The difference lies in how users are authenticated so that documents on the Web may be shared:

  • Businesses can hook up the Web apps inside a company to be used with a SharePoint site. This allows a business to have tighter control over how documents may be shared and also integrate the document creation processes with other SharePoint team features.
  • Regular consumers (home users, small businesses, and so on) can use these Web apps for free by logging on with a Windows Live ID. Actually, anyone can view a document stored on the Web whether they have a Live ID or not. But to create or edit documents, you’ll need to sign on with Live.
  • The new Docs service at docs.com is a partnership between Microsoft and Facebook that allows you to use the Web apps and share documents with your Facebook friends. Instead of logging on with a Windows Live ID, you log on with a Facebook ID.

The most interesting of the three to me is the co-branding with Facebook. Not that I think it will be particularly useful to me, since I don’t really need to collaborate on documents with Facebook friends. But, I suspect it won’t be the only branded version of the Web apps to be available in the coming months. I can easily see sites like Yahoo, for example, deciding to incorporate Web apps.

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