Microsoft has officially taken the wraps off their online productivity suite today as the company steps up its game against the likes of Google and Zoho. Dubbed Office Web Apps, the suite comprises cloud-based versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote, and is accessible to anyone with a Windows Live account. The roll out was supposedly limited to the US, UK, Ireland and Canada but it seems to be working in other countries too – just not in their native language.
Users get free access to the tools, along with 25GB of storage from their SkyDrive accounts. Microsoft describes it as an online companion to Office 2010 that will give you the "best productivity experience across the PC, phone, and browser." Office Web Apps lets you view and edit documents in your web browser or desktop, regardless of where they were created first. You can also collaborate with multiple people simultaneously, and there's a built in version history feature that will let you to go back to older edits of your documents.
The user interface seems very polished and has a desktop-esque look and feel most of us are familiar with. Surprisingly, Office Web Apps appears to work just fine in Chrome, Firefox and even Opera, though the "Edit in 'Office program'" button won't work unless you are in Internet Explorer. The platform will seamlessly integrate with Microsoft's Office 2010, which launches to the public next week, and will be compatible with smartphone versions of Office 2010.