Microsoft demonstrates online Office

The Office Web applications will let users create, edit and collaborate on Office documents.

Microsoft has given a preview of its forthcoming Office online product to delegates at its Professional Developer Conference.

The product is aimed at fending off the challenge of Google Docs.

At the PDC event in Los Angeles a Microsoft Office team member showed how web versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote that will be bundled with the next release of Office will allow people to seamlessly collaborate on documents that can reside online or on PCs.

In one of the demos, the audience saw two people modifying a One Note document-one from within a desktop version of OneNote and another working on the browser-based version of the note-taking application. In another demo a full-featured spreadsheet was modified in similar fashion.

Stephen Elop, president of the Microsoft Business Division said, "Microsoft supports diversity in work styles and understands that customers want choice and flexibility in how and where they work."

He said Microsoft would use its dominant position in the office market to drive its online Office Web product.

Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote will be available to individuals through Office Live, and to businesses though a hosted subscription and volume licensing programs.

The Office Web applications will let users create, edit and collaborate on Office documents. The Web applications, however, are not feature-for-feature renditions of the desktop versions, but they have significant capabilities available via the browser, according to experts. "This is way bigger than anything Google has done so far," said Peter O'Kelly, an independent analyst.

"Think of the things you could do going to the next level of Office Live Workspace. Not just basic AJAX edit controls, but actually the models that are embodied in the applications, and being able to take advantage of that without requiring that everyone have the latest version of Office installed on the client side. It is big."

For business users, Microsoft will offer a subscription service and volume-licensing options for those that want to host the Office Web applications on their own networks.

A limited technical preview of Office Web applications later this year, but Microsoft is urging those interested in the product to sign up for Microsoft Office Live Workspace.

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