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Microsoft Begins Free Office Online Trials

Gordon Kelly

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Microsoft would be loathe to admit it, but I suspect for many the most exciting element of Office 2010 will be its accompanying online 'Web Apps' suite which will include free versions of Excel, Word and PowerPoint. Well, out of the blue, it has suddenly gone live...

In a surprisingly quiet blog post made on Windows Live late last week, Microsoft revealed "a select group of SkyDrive customers will be invited to try out a technical preview". Over time "Office Web Apps will become available to all 500 million+ users of Hotmail, Messenger and other Windows Live services."

As a preview Microsoft says the tech preview currently has a limited feature set, but will enable documents to be created or uploaded with the familiar Office 2007 ribbon and no loss of formatting or data. Documents can also be shared in password protected folders and worked on simultaneously with real time changes showing up to all users. Happily Microsoft has built in support for Firefox and Safari (along with Internet Explorer) for this first release, but Chrome and Opera users look set for a longer wait.

"Today's a great start on terrific things to come," said Windows Live general manager Brian Hall. The potential is certainly there, and what is also intriguing is what response this will generate from Google Docs...

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