Microsoft's Free Office Web Apps Counters Google Apps

Microsoft's Free Office Web Apps Counters Google Apps

Finally, after all the posturing and the back-and-forth, Microsoft and Google now have head-to-head offerings in the SaaS software productivity market. Indeed, Microsoft has just launched the free version of Office Web Apps on SkyDrive -- a potential alternative to Google Apps. Here’s a quick overview of what to expect.

Like Google Docs, Office Web Apps lets users upload their own documents, spreadsheets, and presentations, and edit them in the browser along with collaborators. Notably, when Microsoft’s blog entry plugs its smartphone interface, the example screenshot is from an Apple iPhone, subtly confirming that compatibility.

So what sets Office Web Apps apart? Well, in a line that may sound familiar to you, Microsoft is really playing up Office Web Apps’ integration with the desktop version of the Microsoft Office 2010 productivity suite, available to the public at large later in June 2010.

When the two combine, you can edit documents stored in the cloud offline (productivity without an Internet connection is a feature now?) and co-author documents using revision marks and comments, along with “other rich features” in Word and PowerPoint.

Fair’s fair, and while Microsoft is playing catch-up in the SaaS productivity market, the solution they’ve put together does seem relatively complete -- and it’s not bad to look at, either. Office Web Apps even comes with an integrated version of Windows Live Messenger for instant messaging.

All the same, I feel like Microsoft’s SaaS play is limited by the lack of an app store. Google Apps might not integrate with desktop apps -- yet -- but I feel like the Google Apps Marketplace gives their platform a flexibility and diversity that Microsoft Office Web Apps can only aspire to.

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