With the imminent launch of Microsoft Office 2010, one of the most eagerly awaited features is Office Web Apps. Office Web Apps enables accessing the Microsoft productivity tools such as Word, Excel, PowerPoint via a browser with the documents stored in a Windows Live account or maybe an organizations corporate SharePoint server.
On the surface, it appears that Office Web Apps compete directly with other productivity applications such as Google Apps or Adobe Buzzword. However, as highlighted in a recent article on Information Week, while these products appear to be competing head-on, the business models of the organizations behind them have driven very different product feature offerings. With Google, the App suite is given away for free, with Google earning revenues from advertising. Microsoft on the other hand has always generated revenue from selling software licenses.
So how have these two very different underlying business models affected the feature set of what appear to be very similar product offerings ?
Microsoft will make Office Web Apps available for free to consumers and will stream advertising in a similar manner to the way Google does with Google Apps. For business users, there will be a license fee to pay, but they will have the choice of hosting the apps themselves via SharePoint 2010 or via Microsoft online services. An additional benefit an organization hosting Office Web Apps through SharePoint is that it enables Mobile device access. A major impact of Office Web Apps will be the way users collaborate. Traditionally documents for sharing have been sent as email attachments. With Office Web Apps, documents can be placed on Microsoft Live or on a corporations SharePoint server and a link sent to collaborators who can view or modify the document based on document owner selected preferences. With the ability to work on documents via a browser, locally on a machine with no Internet connectivity or via a mobile device – the options are certainly attractive.
In summary, we are seeing an evolution of the way productivity tools are being offered to users. Organizations with very different underlying business models are competing on feature sets and price to attract users. The end result is users are being offered ever more powerful software, with new modes of working and sharing at an ever increasingly attractive price. If you would like to find out more about these productivity applications and the cloud in general why not try out our new Cloud Computing course.