Microsoft Office has just dealt another blow in the ingoing slugfest with Google Drive. But it's far from a killer punch.
In a post on the Office blog , Office Online product marketing manager Amanda Lefebvre outlined a number of changes to Office Web Apps, including a name change and the addition of some new features.
According to Lefebvre, from here on, Office Web Apps — the online version of Microsoft Office — will be known as Office Online. She said that will make it easier to find, share and collaborate.
Anyone that uses Web Apps — sorry, Office Online — will know that over the past few months, Microsoft has introduced new functionality like real time authoring or real time collaboration and also rebranded SkyDrive to OneDrive to reflect Microsoft’s new ‘One’ strategy outlined by Steve Ballmer last July.
Even with all that, though, it seems the name was confusing people with many unclear as to what they are and where to find them. Lefebvre explains it like this:
First, we’re renaming Office Web Apps to Office Online so you know where to find our free online experience. We heard from customers that the inclusion of Apps in our name was confusing. Are they something I install? Do I go to an app store to get them? No, to use them all you need is a web browser. Ah! You say. So it’s like Office, online. Yes, exactly. Office Online.”
It also seems that many people didn’t use it because they couldn’t find it. While those that regularly use OneDrive, or SharePoint, would have no problems here, those that don’t use them could easily get lost or – even worse – give up looking for them.
However, from here on it, all the Web Apps will be found on Office.com as long as you have a Microsoft Office account that is:
All you need to get started is a Microsoft Account (available with any email address) and once you log in, you can use these free online versions of the Office applications you know and trust. Your files are automatically saved to OneDrive, so you can share them with others and work together on documents, presentations, spreadsheets and notebooks in real-time.”
Why Office Online?
What about those who are already using Office desktop applications? Lefebrvre recommends that you try it out particularly “if you are a person that works with other people on Office documents, presentations and spreadsheets.”
When collaborating with Office you get the full power of Word, PowerPoint, Excel and OneNote on your desktop and the collaborative power of the online versions of the same applications.
The online versions of all the Office apps are full-featured and offer everything you might need to carry out all the functions you get with the desktop application.
In fact, a quick look shows that, at least face value, it is exactly the same as the desktop application and for anyone whose only need from a technology perspective is Office, these apps will suffice. So why pay for Office 365, or Office as a desktop app?
With Office 365 there more applications, including SharePoint Online, or Lync, among others and it is designed with collaborative work in mind.
For those that only use Office apps, you probably wouldn’t need more than these, although you will have to open a (free) Microsoft account to use them, pulling you deeper and deeper into the Microsoft lair. Microsoft has been quite clear that it wants its customers online and this will land them there, if nothing else.
It also offers food for thought for those that might be considering Google Drive. In recent months, Microsoft lost the City of Boston, which jumped over to Google, and we saw only recently that the British government is considering providers other than Microsoft.
If Microsoft hasn’t reacted verbally to these losses, it has been working on building up their productivity apps and providing a better user experience.
This may not be a killer blow in the competition with Google and Google Drive which is still cheaper, but it’s a strong PR move that will provide users with a more cohesive Microsoft experience.
In this respect, Word Online, Excel Online, PowerPoint Online and OneNote Online are now included in an app switcher which lets users easily switch between email, storage and the files that they are working on without having to navigate in and out of online services. Ultimately, whatever happens next, users look set to be the winners here.