Microsoft Goes After Google With Early Office Cloud Launch

In a bid to gain traction in its cloud supremacy battle against Google, Microsoft on Wednesday launched a teaser of its consumer cloud-based Office 2010 Web Apps offering, giving Windows Live SkyDrive users a sneak preview of the cloudified productivity applications.

The early debut of Microsoft's free Web-based Office applications, dubbed Web Apps, gives users access to Web version so Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote. Web Apps has been in beta for roughly nine months.

Microsoft's adding of Web Apps to its Office 2010 portfolio, the major update to its desktop-based productivity application suite, is the software giant's answer to Google and its Google Docs and Google Apps offerings, which put productivity applications like word processing, spreadsheets and slideshow applications in the cloud. The success of Google Docs has sparked a contentious cloud rivalry between Microsoft and Google as the two now butt heads in several markets, including the burgeoning cloud computing marketplace.

The launch of Web Apps, which Microsoft wasn't supposed to release to the public until June 15, is available to users in the U.S., U.K., Canada and Ireland, Microsoft said in a post on its Windows Live blog. It comes nearly a week before Microsoft officially releases the consumer retail version of Office 2010. Microsoft launched the business edition of Office 2010 last month. The latest addition adds a host of new features and functions in Office 2010.

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"Over the last few months, we've gotten incredible feedback from the hundreds of thousands of users in our Office Web Apps Technical Preview," Jason Moore, principal lead program manager for Microsoft's Windows Live SkyDrive team, wrote in the blog post. "We've been busy incorporating much of that feedback, and today, Office Web Apps on SkyDrive are now available to everyone in the US, UK, Canada, and Ireland."

The browser-based Web Apps applications are essentially lightweight versions of their desktop counterparts, giving users basic Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote functionality.

The early launch, with Microsoft did little to promote, comes as Google continues to woo Microsoft users into its Apps and Docs cloud offerings.

When Microsoft officially launched the business version of Office 2010 last month, Google staged a pre-emptive strike, urging users to avoid upgrading from Office 2007 to Office 2010 and leverage Google Apps instead. Google claimed Office 2010 lacks many of the basic collaborative capabilities cloud computing affords.

Microsoft quickly fought back, countering Google's claim.

"Microsoft delivers the best productivity experience and we have the results to prove it," Tracy Overby, senior marketing manager for Microsoft's Office Product Management Group, said in an e-mail to CRN. "After more than a decade of delivering collaboration solutions, our customers trust us to meet their business needs."