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Office Web Apps: Set to showdown with Google Apps

Posted in Applications and User Interfaces by Manas Ganguly on May 12, 2010

Microsoft enhances the mobility of Office applications with the launch of Office 2010 challenging the might of Google in the Online office apps space. Here’s a quick peek at Office Web Apps.

The battle between Google and Microsoft for the online applications market intensified further with the launch of Office 2010, signalling Microsoft’s biggest pitch yet for this burgeoning area of the software market. A vital part of Microsoft’s online push is the Office Web Apps (OWA) element of the suite. OWA consists of versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote that can be accessed via a browser, but are being spun by Microsoft as complementary to the full Office 2010, rather than replacing it. This can be seen by the way in which Microsoft is providing access to the Web Apps; business customers deploy them via Sharepoint, and the rights to use them come only with the volume licensed editions of the Office 2010 Office Standard and Office Professional Plus. Consumers will be able to access the applications from June via Windows Live, assuming they have a Windows Live ID. In Microsoft’s vision, the Web Apps will be used to quickly view documents while searching for the required one on a Sharepoint portal, or provide an emergency fallback if the full-blown Office suite is not available. For this reason, the Office Web Apps have limited functionality compared with the full client versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote.

For example, the Word Web App doesn’t let user edit or insert tables. The Excel Web App also doesn’t let you create charts, but if the user changes any of the cell values, existing charts will reflect the update. Microsoft said that for the most part, documents will display in the Web Apps exactly as they would look in Office 2010.

Google’s apps mostly have greater functionality than their Microsoft counterparts, which largely have just basic editing and formatting functions. While the Web Apps only support Microsoft’s Office Open XML file formats, users can view files created using Office 2003 or earlier, and attempting to open one will give an option to the user to convert it to the newer format.

The good news is that the apps are cross-platform, and have been designed to work in other browsers such as Firefox, or even Apple’s Safari, according to Microsoft. Office Web Apps do seem to be best regarded as an extension of Office 2010 rather than a replacement for it. Consumers seeking basic tools to create and view documents may be satisfied with these capabilities once the Web Apps become available in Windows Live, but business users should expect to still purchase the full Office suite.


Review:The Nokia Microsoft alliance

Posted in Industry updates by Manas Ganguly on September 2, 2009

Nokia Microsoft

On August12th, 2009 Microsoft and Nokia announced that, they will be working together to bring native versions of Microsoft office to Nokia Smartphone. This is a huge departure from the situation 2/3 years earlier, when the Espoo based mobile device giant and the Redmond based big daddy of software and services could not seem to find a common ground of association. A lot since then has changed. Even while Nokia and Microsoft still rule supreme in their respective domains, their supremacies have been challenged bitterly. Nokia was caught napping on the Smartphones, User interfaces and Applications. Microsoft similarly was only too happy shipping incremental development versions of their OSs and browsers. Two radical competitors changed all of that for Microsoft and Nokia. Google and Apple changed the rules of the game for good. It was becoming way to boring out there. Then there were others who joined the party! While Nokia lost its way around in the smartphone markets to RIM and the iconic iPhone, Microsoft also started feeling the pinch as most of its bed fellows (Read HTC) jumped ship to the Android army.

The joining of hands was thus obvious and expected! Microsoft would get volumes and scale from Nokia’s sizeable smartphone portfolio, where as Nokia would engage the Microsoft Office suite. Nokia seems to have made a good start on the Maemo platform with N900, its first Symbian-less smartphone/mobile computing device. More than the platform shift, its signals a willingness from Nokia to accept a eco-system product rather than just sticking to its proprietary offerings.

But this is about more than just creating a version of Office for Nokia — the companies say they are working together on the “design, development and marketing of productivity solutions for the mobile professional.” Already rumors are afoot that Nokia will feature Windows based Applications in the Ovi suite. Besides, the Nokia netbook, Booklet 3G is also rumored to run on Windows 7 version (Though Windows 7 is not the best featured OS for netbooks in general).      

Microsoft has also claimed to have developed rich mobile applications for platform other than its Windows Mobile operating system. Over time, the companies plan to release applications for Nokia phones (using the Symbian operating system) that include:

  • The ability to view, edit, create and share Office documents on more devices in more places with mobile-optimized versions of Microsoft Word, Microsoft PowerPoint, Microsoft Excel and Microsoft OneNote
  • Enterprise instant messaging and presence, and optimized conferencing and collaboration experience with Microsoft Office Communicator Mobile
  • Mobile access to intranet and extranet portals built on Microsoft SharePoint Server
  • Enterprise device management with Microsoft System Center

The move would make sense for Microsoft as a way to get MS Office onto more smartphones. Nokia and Microsoft are pitching this as a unique alliance, and a way for them to compete with other mobile platforms. Of course, Nokia is the easiest target for Microsoft. Edging on to the popular smartphone platforms managed by Google (Android) and Apple (iPhone) will prove a lot tougher, given the tensions between Microsoft and these two companies. But even then, don’t count out such a move.

This partnership would create a formidable challenge for RIM, more than anyone else. Nokia’s E Series phones with the MS Office would be very potent as business devices!

The partnership is a desperate effort by Nokia and Microsoft to multiply strengths, scale and capabilities. It would be interesting to see the results accruing out of this.Watch this space

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