Microsoft Office 2010 and Web Apps: ooh, shiny!

Microsoft on Monday announced the new Office 2010 and Office Web Apps. In IT Blogwatch, bloggers either love 'em or hate 'em How will you feel? Read on...

By Richi Jennings: your humble blogwatcher, who selected these bloggy morsels for your enjoyment. Not to mention the most popular "what is" question on Google.

James Kendrick summarizes on the run:

Microsoft today announced the start of the Office 2010 preview program. A new, larger group will get to start playing with the next major version of the Office suite next month. ... The news was accompanied by even more information about the online version of Office, the Office Web Apps. This online version is aimed at competing with Google Docs, Zoho and others. Like most online apps, the Office Web Apps are designed to be run from the cloud, completely in a user’s web browser

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It will be interesting to see how Office Web Apps plays out, as far as compatibility with non-Microsoft web browsers is concerned. The online apps will certainly be written to best support Internet Explorer users, but Firefox is now mainstream, so it will likely work fine, too. The Google Chrome browser is a wild card. ... Microsoft may have to take some pains to ensure the Web Apps are compatible with Google Chrome, however, to avoid the typical cries of “foul”.
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Tim Anderson registers his interest:

Microsoft has released a technical preview of Office 2010. This is a pre-beta release intended for feedback, as well as promotion, so it's not feature-complete and may change before the final release planned for the first half of 2010. Nevertheless, it offers a fair guide to what Microsoft is planning for its ubiquitous office suite.

The short summary is 'more of the same': more of the controversial Office Ribbon UI, more features for products that arguably have too many already, and more integration with SharePoint so that users are drawn deeper into Microsoft's platform. ... 2010 feels more like a refinement of the earlier version.
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John Paczkowski muses on Office Web Apps being free-as-in-beer:

[It] says quite a bit about the competitive pressures Microsoft (MSFT) is feeling right now, particularly from Google (GOOG). ... [It's] a measured response that trumps Google’s offerings, which Office Web Apps will do on a few levels. First, it’s free of user-separation anxiety. Companies attached to Outlook, Word and whatnot will find in Office Web Apps the same familiar interfaces and functionality.

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Second, Microsoft’s approach offers enterprise an on-premises hosting option. Which means companies that aren’t comfortable running the suite on Microsoft’s remote data centers can run it on their own servers.
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Robert Scoble revisits old allegiances:

When I left Microsoft about four years ago, I remember Steve Gillmor telling everyone that Office was dead. I sort of went along with that, after all I was leaving Microsoft partially because I thought that Microsoft didn’t have an interesting product pipeline and wasn’t going to get the Internet for the second time.

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What happened in the four years since I left Microsoft? ... They started the demo in Firefox. ... Microsoft is finally figuring out how to deal with Google. ... I see lots of things that are damn cool in this suite. ... Microsoft just said to the marketplace that they won’t be outplayed on the Web and that’s pretty huge. ... I will upgrade just for the new Outlook features.
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Paul Thurrott also loves the new Outlook:

Microsoft now considers email a core capability of its Office suite--a basic feature that customers simply expect--and of course that functionality is provided by Microsoft Outlook. In Office 2010, Outlook has been significantly overhauled, most obviously with the ribbon UI ... [but] Microsoft has added a considerable number of new features, so if you're a regular Outlook users, you're going to want to take a close look at this version.

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The improved Conversation View is now the default email view. ... A new Clean Up tool removes the redundant parts of email messages in a message thread. ... The new Ignore thread feature in Outlook 2010 helps you delete all current and future responses with a single click. ... Quick Steps appear in the Outlook ribbon and let you perform multi-step actions. ... A new Exchange 2010/Outlook 2010 feature called MailTips alerts you when you're about to send an inappropriate email message. ... Outlook 2010 will support the use of multiple Exchange accounts. ... There's a new People pane. ... And a new version of Outlook for mobile devices.
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But Zoli Erdos couldn't care less:

I have zero interest in Microsoft Office 2010, the PC product. The last Office I bought was 2003, and I don’t need more: done installing and forever updating bloatware on several computers just to keep productive. ... The big news is that Office 2010 will come with web-based companion apps, which will also be available via Microsoft Live.  They will be free, but we don’t know if they will come with ads or not.

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The ability to collaborate online and have a set of Web apps that integrate tightly and sync well with their offline version is clearly a huge deal and no doubt will be attractive to Microsoft’s existing user base.  I wonder what it means for the growing Web-office market. Is this a Goole and Zoho killer? ... Well, the big question is to what extent the Web components satisfy user needs on their own, without the client software. ... The Genie is out of the bottle, and it’s not going back. ... The more [that users] use web apps, the more they will learn that they may just live without an installed app at all.
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So what's your take?

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Richi Jennings is an independent analyst/consultant, specializing in blogging, email, and spam. A 24 year, cross-functional IT veteran, he is also an analyst at Ferris Research. You can follow him as @richi on Twitter or richij on FriendFeed, pretend to be Richi's friend on Facebook, or just use good old email: itblogwatch@richij.com.

Copyright © 2009 IDG Communications, Inc.

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