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Microsoft Rushes Out Office Web Apps Preview 123

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."
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Microsoft Rushes Out Office Web Apps Preview

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  • by jfengel ( 409917 ) on Thursday September 17, 2009 @09:43PM (#29461609) Homepage Journal

    Remember that the price also includes free upgrades. OK, most of what they've done to Office since 1997 has been worthless, but there are at least a few nice features since then.

  • by SilverHatHacker ( 1381259 ) on Thursday September 17, 2009 @09:43PM (#29461613)
    Some would say that with Microsoft EULA's, you pretty much rent it anyway...Some would say that.
  • by Korbeau ( 913903 ) on Thursday September 17, 2009 @09:48PM (#29461643)

    One thing I'm sad that has not been fixed since Office 97 is the bullet points. Maybe I am missing something, or I'm using too much bullet points, but there is always some point when I'm writing a mail in Outlook or editing an Office document where I'll either:

        - loose indentation for some unclear reason. The bullet will start at the middle of the screen. And how to go back to the correct indentation is some voodoo magic
        - won't be able to create a bullet point on the same level of indentation than the previous one, after I made some multi-line text under the bullet or went back from correcting some text at another place in the doc

    That makes me think about another annoying thing about Office: if 99% of the text of my document is in pt.10 Arial, and then I bold some word, please please please don't make it so if I put the caret after the word all the remaining of the text comes bold!!! Ok, when I'm still typing it's ok... but when I just highlighted the word, made it bold, then went back editing another part of the doc, then came back again ... NO!

    This kind of behavior forces me to put spaces everywhere around where I make the slightest format change (and even around where I insert images etc.)

    Anyway ... my final point is: if they can't fix simple usability stuff (and I didn't even go into table layout etc.) in 12 years having full execution control of a fast turing-machine, what can I expect of some Web App emulating office?

  • by StreetStealth ( 980200 ) on Thursday September 17, 2009 @10:04PM (#29461753) Journal

    People who have been using MS Office since it came on a small stack of floppies are going to keep using what they know. Businesses with a large IT infrastructure invested in supporting Office are going to keep supporting what they know.

    Meanwhile, people who jumped on the Google Docs bandwagon -- they're going to keep using what they know, too. A web-based office suite happened to be what works for them, and now they're invested in the Google way of editing and managing office documents, with no incentive to switch to Microsoft's system.

    Microsoft is probably going to get as many takers on web-based Office as Google would have if they'd launched a desktop office suite.

    Gradually, of course, as web technologies continue to grow, MS Office and the web-based Office will ultimately merge, the only difference being where they're hosted. But not for a decade, at least.

  • by fermion ( 181285 ) on Thursday September 17, 2009 @10:37PM (#29461925) Homepage Journal
    I used MS Excel before it became part of MS Office, and I installed MS Office from all varieties of floppies more time than I care to remember. I still use MS office occasion, but I also use other programs depending on what I want to do. The main reason that I do not use MS anything as my primary software is simply because it does not do what I want it to do. does things very well, as does the iWorks.

    I am now looking at the online options, not because they are better, but because they will serve a purpose. For people who can move, many will use things like Google because it is so available. One of the reasons that MS Office is so often cited as a necessity is that it is the only way to make sure that other can read documents you create. Everyone has MS Office. Well, everyone has a google account, and I can share my document just by adding their google account to my share list. No danger that they may still be running 2003 while I have 2007, and not have the time to install a filter. No danger that the filter might mess up formatting. Google provides now what MS claimed to provide, but never really delivered.

    If MS plays this game of delivering an inferior online product to protect it's Office franchise, then Google will likely provide a better collaborative product within a couple years,and will likely provide an equal online experience. The only firms that will be using MS products are those that are so dependent on kickbacks that they can't afford to move. MS would do much better providing a subscription service that provides some superior features as compared to MS Office.

    Such an offering assumes two things. One is that they have the technical expertise to deliver a cross platform solution. Two is that they have the ability to provide customer service without the OEMs running interference(i.e. it is not a MS problem, contact the vendor of you hardware). Three is that they are willing to give up the MS desktop monopoly and compete on quality products, which they totally can do, but simply will require more work.

  • by tetsukaze ( 1635797 ) on Thursday September 17, 2009 @10:54PM (#29462019)
    I don't use google docs much and what I have used has been pretty disappointing. That being said, there is a lot potential in the concept. I do hate the idea of renting software but at the very least, there will now be two big players in this market. I would really like to see google being driven to make their software feature competitive with microsoft so I can get one more step away from being stuck with a bulky product from Bill.
  • by shutdown -p now ( 807394 ) on Thursday September 17, 2009 @10:55PM (#29462027) Journal

    One difference between Google Docs and Office Web Apps - at least judging by press releases for the latter - is that Web Apps will use Silverlight over HTML/JS, if it is available. And it's definitely quite possible to get more responsiveness out of Silverlight compared to AJAX, as well as much better control over rendering.

  • by commodore64_love ( 1445365 ) on Thursday September 17, 2009 @11:01PM (#29462069) Journal

    No not a rental, since I can take the original CDs and Box and resale my copy of Office97 on ebay. That's one advantage of ownership.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday September 17, 2009 @11:04PM (#29462077)

    "Businesses with a large IT infrastructure invested in supporting Office are going to keep supporting what they know."

    Exactly. Office 2007 and the new "web Office" are NOT qualified as "What They Know". It's new stuff, new menus, new functions. In short, it is just as much an effort to use it than to switch to something else.

  • by acid06 ( 917409 ) on Thursday September 17, 2009 @11:19PM (#29462155)

    Since I can only see a "Install Microsoft Silverlight" image.
    My karma can burn, but I won't install this crap.

  • by Megane ( 129182 ) on Thursday September 17, 2009 @11:32PM (#29462223) Homepage
    It's only free if you don't count the cost of lost productivity when the office internet breaks.
  • by djupedal ( 584558 ) on Thursday September 17, 2009 @11:33PM (#29462233)
    > what can I expect of some Web App emulating office?

    - loose indentation for some unclear reason
    - how to go back to the correct indentation is some voodoo magic
    - won't be able to create a bullet point on the same level of indentation, after making some multi-line text under the bullet or going back from correcting some text at another place in the doc
  • by YrWrstNtmr ( 564987 ) on Thursday September 17, 2009 @11:34PM (#29462237)
    The Access frontend and VBA is one of the most powerful database tools I've ever used; if MS could link it to a backend that didn't suck (say...SQL Server) and host it for me, that would be better than having the local app.

    For all the bashing of Access, it is/can be a very, very good front end to a lot of back end stuff. Hooking into a billion row Oracle DB, with client desktops spread from California to Ohio to Paris...yeah, we were doing that a decade ago with Office97.
    The real problem with Access is it makes everything look so easy. Non-developers quickly get in over their heads, and build/deploy stuff that is out of the realm of what Access can handle. Build within its limits, and you can do wonders.
  • by shutdown -p now ( 807394 ) on Friday September 18, 2009 @01:12AM (#29462765) Journal

    How about we stop misusing the term "operating system", and refrain from using it for things that clearly aren't that?

  • by crhylove ( 205956 ) <> on Friday September 18, 2009 @01:31AM (#29462845) Homepage Journal

    Why would ANYONE use this? Google Apps is free. Open Office is free. Open Office exports to PDF, and does a damned good job, too. I send everything as a PDF now. I know it will look on their computer just like it does on my computer.

    I really can't understand why anybody, particularly a business that wants to save money, would use any of Microsoft's products.

    Linux Mint, Firefox, Pidgin, Open Office...... These are GREAT business tools. FREE. With FREE updates. That beat the pants off of every MS offering. Why is the MS hegemony so powerful? Some companies would save MILLIONS by switching, once the get through the rough patch of upgrading. But they're going to have to upgrade to Windows 7 and some bullshit new MS Office anyway.

    I seriously, seriously don't get it.

  • by 1s44c ( 552956 ) on Friday September 18, 2009 @01:50AM (#29462933)

    Microsoft is following its normal behavior of ripping off other peoples ideas because they just don't have any of their own. This may have worked well in the past ( windows, office, etc. ) but it's not viable now, google are big enough to not be prone to Microsoft's anti-competitive tactics and google don't depend on microsoft's OS.

    Microsoft have never been able to dominate without their unfair advantage and they are losing that. The stranglehold that kept MS in business for decades is now falling apart.

    I predict a long protracted death for microsoft. And good riddance, I never liked their poor quality products or nasty business practices anyway.

  • by snowwrestler ( 896305 ) on Friday September 18, 2009 @11:12AM (#29466719)

    Free is problematic for businesses because it does not create a relationship with balanced obligations. I would never put sensitive data on a hosted service that I accessed for free. The provider has no obligation to me whatsoever.

    But if I am paying for a service, that creates a contractual relationship with duties on both sides. This makes the lawyers much more comfortable. Of course whether I use the service or not will still depend on the terms and conditions, as well as the due diligence and how much I trust the company.

    From Microsoft's perspective, the most dangerous thing from Google is not the free Google Docs service, but the low-cost Google Apps for Your Business. It's cheaper than Microsoft, offers better collaboration, but is still a for-pay service with SLA and legal duties.

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