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Microsoft Replaces Office Web Apps with 'Office Online'

Microsoft's Office Web Apps product is now named "Office Online" and can now be accessed easily from the front page of Office.com, the company announced this week.

The Office Online apps comprise browser-based versions of Excel Online, OneNote Online, PowerPoint Online and Word Online. Also available are the OneDrive cloud-based storage service (formerly called "SkyDrive"), the Outlook.com e-mail service, as well as People and Calendar apps.

Office Online apps are free to use by anyone with online access and a Web browser. Getting access just requires having an e-mail account, as well as a free "Microsoft account" signup.

Microsoft explained the reasons for the name change and the reorganization of Office.com in its announcement. Of the "one billion Office users," few of them had actually tried Office Web Apps. Moreover, users couldn't easily find out how to access them, other than through SkyDrive, the company indicated.

Office Online apps run in a browser and have the same look and feel as classic Microsoft Office desktop apps, although the features of Office Online apps are far more limited. Microsoft is touting the interoperability of the two products, with users being able to use the full Microsoft Office features offline and then collaborate with others online using Office Online apps. That collaboration capability is powered by a so-called "real-time coauthoring" feature that Microsoft added to Excel, PowerPoint and Word Office Web Apps late last year.

While Microsoft's name change and reorganization of Office Online might not seem like a big deal, it's apparently been contemplated by Microsoft for the past seven years. At least that's the reckoning of veteran Microsoft watcher Mary Jo Foley.

Office Web Apps had started out as a browser-based extension to Microsoft Office called Office Live Workspace. In 2012, Microsoft killed off its "Windows Live" branding, mostly because the Live products originally weren't designed to be cloud-enabled, which might have been confusing given the Live name.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for 1105 Media's Converge360 group.

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