In a move that seems like a challenge to Google’s suite of web-based office tools, Microsoft is opening some of its Office programs — including PowerPoint, Word and Excel — to the web.
Office Web Apps will allow for online document creation, editing, collaboration and storage using Windows Live. Documents created in Office 2010 can be stored directly to the cloud, as well.
Users will have to download the desktop version of Office 2010 in order to try Office Web Apps. We’re unsure whether Office Web Apps will allow users to import their Google Docs (); if not, that might be a stumbling block for otherwise eager adopters.
Here’s a preview of what the new apps will look like:
Office Web Apps will also be available as a SaaS solution for businesses. Companies running Office 2010 through a volume licensing program will be able to use Office Web Apps on a server running Microsoft SharePoint 2010.
Clearly, all of these features and benefits parallel the Google Docs suite of applications. Google () has the advantages of longevity and agnosticism — you don’t have to run any desktop software and Google Docs is plug-and-play — and Google Docs is already integrated into many of our online lives via a Google account.
It will be interesting to see how this battle plays out in the enterprise, where legacy and relationships are all-important. Will larger organizations, from corporations to municipalities to educational institutions, be willing to part ways with their current Google Apps installations? Will they be more likely to head for the cloud — some for the first time — with a MS Office-branded product?
If not, Microsoft’s bid for businesses’ cloud-based office software needs may be too little, too late. What’s your opinion?