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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 commodore64_love ( 1445365 ) on Thursday September 17, 2009 @09:33PM (#29461545) Journal

    I'm sure the annual rental fee will be so much cheaper (cough) than the $150 I spent to buy Office 97 (~$11.50 per year).

    • 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 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 Xin Jing ( 1587107 ) on Thursday September 17, 2009 @11:45PM (#29462301)

          Resale is currently one advantage of the retail product manufacturer that is probably on the way out if MS has anything to do with it. Take any application that requires the activation key to be linked with a user name and a password, or explicitly forbids the resale of the software to a third party, and you have a product that can only be sold to one person.

          * http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Limitations_on_exclusive_rights:_Computer_programs [wikipedia.org] "This one change by congress has resulted in the odd situation where software makers claim that purchasers do not own the software but rather only license it. The courts have split on whether or not the claim in the software agreement that a purchaser does not own the software is enforceable and thus require an additional license to use the software."

          Further, "The law allows any copies that are created for the above purposes to be transferred when the software is sold, only along with the copy made to prepare them. Adaptations made can not be transferred without permission from the copyright holder."

          Which is why any self-respecting software distributer wants to close that 'archival copy' loophole and require each instance of the software to perform an authentication with a unique CD Key.

          A good example of the implementation is Valve and Steam. Here is a company that does digital downloads of the same retail product with the same limitation, they all have to authenticate each time the software is run.

          • >>>Resale is currently one advantage of the retail product manufacturer that is probably on the way out if [megacorporations] has anything to do with it.

            Fixed. Everybody from game companies to amazon.com e-books to the music/video industry is trying to kill the "used" market. When you download your games, books, videos, or songs you have to keep them for life. You can never resell them to somebody else. Which is frankly annoying. I often buy a book or game, play it through, and then resell the

    • 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?

      • There's also some point when you confuse loose/lose.
      • As much as I despise office suites in general (seriously, I have a perl script that processes plain text into LaTeX and compiles it automatically for me just so I never have to muck with an office suite), most of those sound like PEBKACs. Or you're describing them poorly.

      • Re: (Score:1, Redundant)

        by nmb3000 ( 741169 )

        One thing I'm sad that has not been fixed since Office 97 is the bullet points.

        I really have never had trouble with bullet points in Office. Controlling indentation is usually pretty easy, you just TAB or SHIFT+TAB to move the bullet right or left. If you need to insert a new bullet, just put the cursor at the end of the previous bullet and hit ENTER.

        Another important thing to know about bullets if you want to use them effectively is that you can left-click on a bullet to select the bullets in that partic

        • by Korbeau ( 913903 )

          Thanks for answering this so thoroughly, definitely some helpful tips here (I'm though already aware of most shortcuts I must say)

          Just to be a little more specific (and since some other replies also had the comment that "there does not seem to be anything wrong here ...")

          I guess some people know in advance what they are writing because they have all figured out beforehand. Or some people don't care about formatting until the end. I'm somewhat in-between. I like to format my documents nicely as I write th

          • So ... when I write technical doc in ASCII for instance it can get quite messy

            If you are in a technical field, and you are used to technical things, you are a prime candidate for the use of LaTeX. Plain text with a tiny amount of mark up, it really is worth learning.

          • by jbengt ( 874751 )

            . . . maybe I'm cursed . . .

            You're not. [faughnan.com]

        • by jbengt ( 874751 )

          Since I make my living creating drawings and specifications for bidding, and since specifications are essentially numbered lists with many levels, I can assure you that MS Word is full of bugs and very frustrating to use when it comes to bullet points and numbered lists. In fact, MS Word is the worst word processor I have ever used to write specs, and I have used many versions of Word, Wordperfect, and Open Office on Windows and Linux. Hand numbering lists in Notepad is often much easier (though I don't r

      • by Hal_Porter ( 817932 ) on Thursday September 17, 2009 @11:13PM (#29462121)
        • You
        • need
        • Office 2007
        • Excessive Bullet
        • Point edition
      • 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
        • I would suggest that a useful policy might be to get your content right (which includes recognising the difference between "lose" and "loose"), and THEN worry about how your indentation or bullet points look.

          In fact, you would do well to leave bullet-points to powerpoint shows and try writing sentences and paragraphs in your documents. It might be a novelty, but it was good enough for Shakespeare.
          • So the joke went over your pointed little head...let me explain....slowly.

            I sarcastically c o p i e d the content of the previous post, slanting the unspoken irony towards MS WORD with tiny little jabs. Their loose, my loose, your screw is loose and if you don't pay attention you might lose it poifecterly soon, if not soonestly. If you want to be a diapered-gumby about it, at least take it up with the source. O.K.?

            You can go back to your corndog now, I won't distract you any longer since I'm sure your
      • by rainhill ( 86347 )

        You type so much to notice all that? what are you Stephen King's typist?

      • <ENTER><ENTER> and <SHIFT-TAB> are your friends.
    • Well it's free.

      Organization licenses cost money but multiple Office licenses wouldn't cost you nearly as little as your $150.

    • by Colonel Korn ( 1258968 ) on Thursday September 17, 2009 @11:48PM (#29462319)

      I'm sure the annual rental fee will be so much cheaper (cough) than the $150 I spent to buy Office 97 (~$11.50 per year).

      You were sure and you're correct! The annual fee is $0. The one time cost of purchase is $0. The biweekly upside down processing fee is $0.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Office_Web_Apps#Office_Web_Applications [wikipedia.org]

      Still, there's a less obvious cost associated with using web apps for your office documents. Do you really want Microsoft to have all your personal data? Does a company want MS to have its trade secrets? Does the government want to be dependent on MS to function? The same goes for Google.

      • *cough* loss-leader *cough*

        • You read my mind. Companies don't give stuff away for free, except as a way to sucker you out of your money somewhere else. Stores give-away goods below cost, because they know you'll probably buy regular-priced items too, and the store will profit overall. Microsoft gives-away Xboxes below cost, or web-aps for free, because they know they can make money later on when they sell the Xbox360 at $50 profit and/or start charging an annual rental fee on the WebOffice aps.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Improved version of this page can be found here [kanyelicio.us]
  • Home server +ssh (Score:5, Interesting)

    by nurb432 ( 527695 ) on Thursday September 17, 2009 @09:53PM (#29461683) Homepage Journal

    I have my own self hosted 'web apps'. I own my data, i keep control of it.

    I would be wiling to bet if everyone got together and wrote some PHP based office suite that you could run on your own pc, or a basic web hosting service you pay for, it would give both google and Microsoft a run for its money.

    • Re:Home server +ssh (Score:4, Informative)

      by westyvw ( 653833 ) on Thursday September 17, 2009 @10:58PM (#29462059)

      How about an entire php multiuser webbased OS [eyeos.org]?

      I keep one going on my server, and it actually is very nice.

    • by Omegium ( 576650 )
      Why doesn't google start with offering localized hosting? A 19" server with a webserver, the apps software and enough disk space for 100 users wouldn't be very difficult or expensive to make. And since it's only function is hosting those apps through a webserver, it probably is quite easy to secure. Add in some API's to backup stuff to a second location, and you have your in house, unaffected by internet failure office suite, usable from a thin client with a browser.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by SCHecklerX ( 229973 )

      Actually, if google just sold a modular 'app appliance' based on their current clustering, that would be a huge win for business. It can be a 'web app' without being on the general internet. As your company grows, you just add boxes that automagically scale to deal with the growth. One central place to upgrade, configure, keep standard templates, etc. That would rock.

  • 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.

    • I suspect that Microsoft only cares about taking a hunk of the people who have interest in the "Google Docs" type products. If they even take 20-30% of that market, they will have ruined the momentum that Google has.
    • 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. OO.org 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 OO.org 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.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by lbgator ( 1208974 )

        Google will likely provide a better collaborative product within a couple years

        I look for Google Wave to fill that void within 12 months.

    • by Bluesman ( 104513 ) on Thursday September 17, 2009 @10:49PM (#29461987) Homepage

      If Microsoft can pull this off, it will be huge, but not for Word.

      I'm saying this as a hater of Microsoft Word, reluctant user of Excel, and recent convert to being a MS Access fan. (Yeah, I know it's not a real database, but if you know what you're doing, you can do some amazing things very quickly in Access, that anyone can use with no server or database know-how.)

      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.

      Another benefit to having Excel or Access online is that they're not based on presentation, and the calculation-intensive stuff is easily spread across a cluster of machines. If they can also make it as easy as it is now to generate forms and reports based on the data, while hosting database apps, I'd sign up in a heartbeat.

      • by Spit ( 23158 )

        I personally hate Access because of MDB, but if MS could provide an online database builder they would be onto a major winner.

      • 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.
      • 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)

        Uh, you can already do that... or use any back-end that supports ODBC.

        Or are you being sarcastic and I'm whooshing?

        • I know you can already do that, but having to support the database and server is more than I care to do for small projects.

          I have projects where I know I'm not going to be able to support them full time, and the organization they're for knows that. MDB sucks for multi-users, but assume there's no time or budget for supporting SQL Server or any of the other options. Now an online Access with an MS-hosted backed starts looking VERY appealing.

          • Blug. I see your point, and I don't know what the solution is, but it hurts me deeply.

            There has to be *some* way to get a SQL Server installation at that client, right? Access without a real DB is just a giant WTF waiting to happen-- at best, you'll have to redevelop it when the company grows, and at worst they'll be too cheap to ever get a properly-coded solution and productivity will drop as they're all "waiting to connect." And to make things worse, if a company is using an Access MDB file, you can almos

            • Some things just aren't important enough for the effort. If something goes wrong, it's much more likely that someone will be able to copy last week's version of the .mdb files to the right location, and the "backups" can be scripted.

              It's not the right way, but it's the way least likely to fail given the constraints. Online backup would be much better, so an online access would be a huge win.

      • by 1s44c ( 552956 )

        Another benefit to having Excel or Access online is that they're not based on presentation, and the calculation-intensive stuff is easily spread across a cluster of machines. If they can also make it as easy as it is now to generate forms and reports based on the data, while hosting database apps, I'd sign up in a heartbeat.

        What on earth are you doing in excel that could need a cluster of machines? Cracking AES? Have you implemented bubblesort in visual basic just for a laugh?

        Even the most complex reports don't need more CPU power than can be provided by a 4 year old computer.

    • by shutdown -p now ( 807394 ) on Thursday September 17, 2009 @10:57PM (#29462047) Journal

      I too suspect this isn't going to be all that popular on the Net, but Office Web Apps will integrate with SharePoint 2010 on corporate networks - which is probably a far bigger deal, since SP is something already deployed widely in the enterprise specifically to host libraries of Office documents.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      "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.

  • Video from Channel 9 (Score:3, Informative)

    by gbrayut ( 715117 ) on Thursday September 17, 2009 @10:31PM (#29461885) Homepage
    There was a video showing the features of Excel Web App, Powerpoint Web App, and Word Web App here on channel 9: http://channel9.msdn.com/posts/dtzar/Office-Live-Applications-First-Look/ [msdn.com] They look a little slow and not as responsive as Google Docs, but they do have more feature. Interesting to see the final product.
    • Since I can only see a "Install Microsoft Silverlight" image.
      My karma can burn, but I won't install this crap.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Keeper ( 56691 )

        ...or you could just click on the formats link and download the mp4... but burning karma bitching about Silverlight sounds like more fun.

        • by acid06 ( 917409 )

          Actually, I didn't even notice that.
          I guess that counts as a bad UI so the subject of my post is still relevant.

          But thanks for pointing it out anyway, now I'm able to actually watch the video.

  • Maybe there are die-hard MS users out there who have been eagerly waiting for MS to set foot in this type of service...
  • 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.
  • Sincerely...Google should be concerned. You might wonder why:

    Because Google Docs does not "cut it!" Zoho Office and now Microsoft's web offerings do a better job. Who can say no?

  • why is the title: Microsoft "Rushes Out" Office Web Apps Preview Rushed out? Actually its been in development for a few years so if anything more like "Slowly Pushes Out Tech Preview..." But seriously slashdot, why the constant undertones for Microsoft? Call it as it lies please. Keep it up and you might even get bought by Fox News. :)
    • Re: (Score:2, Troll)

      Because any technical announcement anywhere in the world is followed by a "me, too!" from Bill Gates. Then after 3 to 6 years the half-trained monkeys have stolen or slapped together some crap with enough of a user interface to fool a few MBAs into thinking that MS might have an entry in that market.
  • Now you can get a BSOD over the Web! Gotta love modern living.

  • as playground for competition is no longer owned by Microsoft.

  • by crhylove ( 205956 ) <rhy@leperkhanz.com> 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.

    • Re: (Score:1, Interesting)

      by 0ld_d0g ( 923931 )

      Part of the reason they use it is because in their estimation MS tools are better. I know, shocking right? Quick, lets insult the users and call them stupid ! That'll show them !!

    • by Anonymous Coward

      I seriously, seriously don't get it.

      You don't "get it" because you're a delusional OSS fanboy.

    • 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.

  • 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.

  • As always, Microsoft seems one step behind. It's not necesarily a bad thing (given they can learn from competition's mistakes instead of their own), but it would be a good idea to become proactive instead of reactive for a change. This century would be a good time to start.
  • Good to see that, once again, Microsoft is leading out with its' cutting edge technology. Not.

  • That is, 'Application Service Provider' model that was all the rage back mid-dotcomboom. Microsoft talked and talked about how they'd sell the subscription service so you'd only pay for what you used with Microsoft Office -- undoubtedly hoping to cash in on the monthly service fee you forget to cancel.

    Now they're trying to give it away for free just to remain relevant. Goodness.. how things have changed.

Make it myself? But I'm a physical organic chemist!