[LINK] Word, Excel, Powerpoint - free on the web
brd at iimetro.com.au
Mon Mar 15 15:39:57 EST 2010
Word, Excel, Powerpoint - free on the web
March 15, 2010 - 2:00PM
Microsoft is rising to Google Docs, offering free Office applications on the web as it releases Office 2010.
New paid versions of the ubiquitous office suite will be available to businesses in May and consumers in June, but its Office Web Apps component is already available in beta through Microsoft Office Live.
Anyone with a Windows Live account can create, modify or share Word, Excel and PowerPoint documents for free. They do not need Microsoft software installed on their machines.
Gartner predicts web-based office suites will grow at 34 per cent annually through to 2013 to satisfy market demand. Google recently purchased DocVerse, a company that enables Microsoft applications in the cloud.
It begs the question: with so many free web-based office software options available, why pay for a new version of the proprietary suite?
Reed Shaffner, senior product manager, Office 2010, was in Australia last week to explain. He disputed the notion that free online applications like Google Docs, Zoho and ThinkFree are adequate for sophisticated users, especially in the enterprise.
“It's really about the different applications that we provide as leading software vendor. We invest US$1billion in R&D in every version of Office that we put out. If you think of productivity suites, no one else can begin to play in that arena.”
Office 2010 brings incremental changes to Word, Excel, Publisher, Access, OneNote, PowerPoint and Outlook. Professional and Home & Business beta trials are available for download now. The focus, Shaffner said, is on collaboration and sharing.
All programs include a “Save to SkyDrive” button to upload to the cloud more easily. SkyDrive is the company's name for the storage space within Office Live.
Enterprise users on SharePoint have a “Save to SharePoint” button for the same purpose.
The change in Outlook 2010 is substantial. Here Microsoft has attempted to catch up with the social media revolution by adding Social Connectors to the most used email program in the world.
The enhancement displays additional contact information from LinkedIn, Facebook and MySpace, as well as from desktop and SharePoint searches.
“We've really tried to take office and bring it to the work style that people have adjusted to in their life," said Shaffner.
“We realise that as people communicate through different channels they don't want to go to different places. People want one view of that so we tried to make Outlook the hub.”
San Francisco start-up Xobni already offers such a product. It integrates seamlessly with social networks including Twitter, and has enterprise add-ons for Salesforce.com and SharePoint.
Jens Butler, principal analyst with Ovum, says software vendors like Microsoft have no choice but to include social networking in their packages.
“Everyone else is doing it. They might as well,” he said.
Enhanced Security v Distraction
Shaffner listed a number of enterprise security improvements as reasons for upgrade. This includes the ability to not only preview but also open email attachments in a virtual window that protects the user from executable files, and anti-tampering detection for known files.
“So you users don't have to make any trust decision,” he said.
He believed enterprises would upgrade to the new suite as they migrate to Windows 7.
He rejected suggestion they might baulk at the prospect of more social media interference at work, saying that 10 years ago they had the same reaction to Instant Messaging, now a given in workplace communication.
Making the upgrade decision
Butler said despite the abundance of free office applications, enterprise customers would undertake a systematic approach to upgrades. This included considering cost of acquisition, ongoing maintenance, training and system integration.
He anticipated businesses using Office 2003 would soon upgrade, while 2007 users would be in less hurry.
Consumers who buy a new Windows machine from now on have the option of upgrading to Office 2010.
Gartner analysts said proprietary office suites would dominate the enterprise market until 2011 because they offer significant functionality and performance advantages over web-based versions.
brd at iimetro.com.au
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