Office Web Apps is Microsofts online version of it's ubiquitous desktop productivity software. First introduced in 2009, the software was originally intended to be part of the now defunct Office Live Workspace service. Office Live eventually became SkyDrive, and today its users can make use of Office Web Apps to edit documents stored within. Office Web Apps is also available to users of SharePoint (using 'on premise' configurations) and the cloud based Office 365.
Microsoft has constantly improved the apps over the years, most recently adding real time collaboration and editing. This is a significant breakthrough for Microsoft, for a number of reasons. Firstly it is simply a great new feature. Users of the Word, PowerPoint, and Excel web apps can now contribute to and edit documents simultaneously. Real time presence information shows who is currently doing what, and edits can be seen with documents as they happen. It's a really effective implementation and a job well done by Microsoft.
This update is significant for another reason. It brings the suite in line with similar features available in Google Docs. Google has been pushing its own software against Microsoft for some time now. Real time editing had been something Google offered that Microsoft couldn't. This is no longer the case.
The bad news for its competitors is that in all other areas Office Web Apps already offers much more than the likes of Google Docs. It offers a richer editing experience (complete with 'Modern UI' stylings, a broader range of formatting options, and most importantly of all excellent compatibility with the Office document file formats. This is extremely important to many users in corporate and enterprise environments, who still rely on Microsoft Office on their work desktop machines.
The future is bright for Office Web Apps. Microsoft is already touting the coming improved support for Android devices (iOS and Windows are already catered for) and as Office 365 subscriptions continue to fly off the digital shelves, we can expect to see more and more exciting features being added. If you factor in the recent comments from Steve Ballmer about a touch version of the full Office Suite being right around the corner, then it is clear Microsoft is continuing to invest heavily in its flagship productivity suite. And we think you will agree when we say that this is good news for everyone!
If you are interested in how Office 365 could help your organization we can help - see our Office 365 page Insight article on Five Office 365 features for users on the move by Mark Sahal.
Further information on moving SharePoint and core technology to the cloud is on our upgrades and migrations page.