CWmike writes "Today Microsoft launched a limited beta test of its Office Web Apps, the company's first public unveiling of its rival for Google's Web applications. Dubbed a 'technical preview' by Microsoft to denote that it's by invitation only, Office Web Apps will be available on the company's Windows Live site via a special 'Documents' tab. 'Tens of thousands have been invited to participate in the Technical Preview,' said a spokeswoman in a reply to questions. An analyst with Directions on Microsoft is quoted: 'This is earlier than I expected. I thought we wouldn't see this until the SharePoint conference at the end of October. Maybe the recent Google moves had some bearing on Microsoft's timing.' The reference was to Google's announcement Tuesday that it will offer online services next year, including Google Web Apps, that are specially designed for US government agencies."