Office 2010 – Microsoft Enter the Online Apps Space

clip_image002With the imminent public release of Office 2010 educators have much more to look forward to than just an updated office suite as its release marks Microsoft’s first meaningful foray into web-based apps (Microsoft Office Web Apps). Up until now this space was very much the domain of Google and its Google Docs suite (with some notable exceptions like Zoho and Thinkfree) and despite arriving quite late to market, Microsoft’s new offering promises to shake the cloud based productivity market, providing  slimmed down online versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote in conjunction with 25GB of online storage on SkyDrive for storage and collaboration. Up until now people wanting to share and collaborate on Office docs had the option of using the Office Live Workspace (a  storage and project management tool) but effective use required having the Office 2007 suite installed on the local PC. However with Office Web Apps applications, storage and collaboration will be available to anyone with a free Windows Live ID, later this year. For now you’ll need Office 2010 to join the Office Web Apps Technical Preview. To boot schools can look forward to seamless integration with Microsoft’s free hosted email service Live@EDU, which offers managed student email accounts and storage, setup on the schools domain.

Admittedly there is nothing ground-breaking about the availability of such free cloud based services, Google has been offering similar tools free to education for some time now and indeed many Irish schools have adapted the Google platform for their student email, productivity and storage needs. However it is far from the perfect solution, Google docs offers relatively basic functionality in its online suite compared with an office suite you install locally (one which you’d expect Office Web Apps to better significantly) and Google for sometime has been receiving a lot of bad press around data protection and privacy issues. We only have to look as recent as this week to learn of its latest admission that it gathered private wireless data by mistake when recording pictures for Street View, a feature in Google Maps (more).  I also read with interest a recent article from, claiming that big universities in the UK are opting for Microsoft’s cloud email service over Google Mail. as the MS service better satisfies data protection requirements with all user data stored within its newly developed Dublin datacentre.

So maybe it’s a little later than expected but the gloves are certainly off as these two goliaths of the tech industry lock horns in the rapidly expanding cloud apps and storage space. Whoever comes out on top is really irrelevant, competition between such major players can only lead to increased functionality and usability for the end-user.

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