back to article Microsoft punts web-based apps to the masses

In a bid to spin its web-based version of Office into contention with rival internet behemoth Google, Microsoft has said it will begin accepting applications for beta testing its web apps later this year. The software giant's suite of applications, which include the ubiquitous Excel and Word, has been a hugely profitable …


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  1. Nick Ryan Silver badge

    Utterly pointless

    So, in order to have the pleasure of using MS's applications, you have to have the full fat version bloating your hard disk.

    And the point of this is...??? The whole point of having *web-based* apps is, erm, that they're web based, not some arse-about face ActiveX security hole plugin that requires the full application itself.

    For extra fun and joy, MS will doubtless require that you use "The World Most Insecure Browser" (TM) as well.

    It's obvious what MS are doing here though - they'll build this junk into sharepoint to further muddy the waters and ensure that users user their products and their products alone.

  2. Chad H.

    But if I already had word and excel...

    Why would I bother with the web based version? Lets see, trade in the advantages of it all being local: faster response times, not loosing my work when my cheap adsl connection drops out again,etc, in exchange for.... What exactly?

  3. Danny


    Amazing. Let's see if I've understood this.

    (A) Use Google or OpenOffice giving unrestricted access to your files using standard open file formats.

    or (B) Use a service that requires MS Office or restricts access to your files and uses non-standard closed proprietary file formats.

    Humm, difficult choice.

  4. M

    Just why does...

    ...the fad of having office packages on-line all about?

    I don't want to log onto the internet to draft the letter or two! Just download the OpenOffice/Ability or whatever and then work off-line. Simple!

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    MS has lost the plot

    “‘Online’ services are for organizations with more advanced IT needs where power and flexibility are critical.”

    That's an incredibly 1980s viewpoint. Funny, everybody else in the 21st century seems to think that 'online' services are for everybody. Or equivalently, that the set of users with "advanced" IT needs where power and flexibility are critical includes... everybody. Seriously, who doesn't want power and flexibility? And as capitalists, who are Microsoft to distinguish between my wants and my needs?

    I do sincerely wish that MS would stop subjecting themselves to irrelevance, if only because their blunders have a way of becoming standards.

  6. andy gibson

    One advantage...

    It may help sort out the terrible spelling and grammar that seems to be affecting Reg commentators of late! What's the matter, your rage stopping you spell checking your comments? ;-)

  7. John Styles

    The Microsoft cashpoint

    You put your card in, type in the number, then the person sitting behind the wall counts out and hands you the money.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Web based Office suites are crap

    Why would anyone do this? I don't just mean Microsoft, but all web based office suites are just rubbish. All Microsoft have done is give you some "free" disk space that you can point Office applications at. I think the point is though you just can't offer anything as complex as a Office suite online unless it's so basic it's almost useless. I don't know why Microsoft are worried, a Dog and Pony show like Google Apps hasn't made any dent in their market share and OpenOffice is a fine product but no one is really using it much. OpenOffice is a fundamentally dated application, even though I use it. There really aren't is anyone seriously competing with Office at the minute.

  9. Amanda Appleton



    Is this a beta release of an april fools joke for next year?

  10. Ken Hagan Gold badge

    Not even new?

    So what's the difference between this "new" scheme and using Word and Excel locally but saving files to a web-based folder? (I think the latter has been possible since Win2K and WebDAV hasn't it?)

  11. Neil Barnes Silver badge


    That's what you need, Edlin.

    These new-fangled 'word processors' do to words what a food processor does to food, and the result is often as appetising.

    (Yes, I have just taken a week to strip 180 different styles from someone else's word doc... does it show?)

  12. Scott Coe

    Man, I want . . .

    . . .what the vole is smoking! They obviously have a corporate supplier for some really great smoke. If they are going to continue business in this fashion, they need to share with the entire class so we, the customer, can at least begin to understand where these idiots are coming from.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    google avalble every where.

    office fast n stable.


  14. Richard Thomas

    Re: Edlin

    A week? Surely you jest...



    Start > Run > Notepad


    Job done ;-)

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Real men use LaTeX.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    " .. being in a ship is being in a jail, with the chance of being drowned .."

    ... as the famous Samuel Johnson once said. It seems to me that using this online web service is using MS Office on your own PC, with the additional chance of your data being lost.

    Apart from slow responsiveness, losing access to your data when your network or their servers go down, and the risk of interception or hacking of your data while it's not under your control, what *other* benefits does this half-baked notion bring?

    (And a free hotmail account to the first person to bring up the "But you can access your documents while you're on the move" canard...)

  17. James Pels

    @Neil Barnes

    Wonderful feature in Word... Alt+A, then select a style (unless, of course, Word decides it doesn't want to work properly...)

  18. Vladimir Plouzhnikov

    In the interest of security

    It's simple. They want to store our data on MS servers so that the US DOJ can keep an eye on what everyone's doing without having to bother about the petty things like subpoenas, jurisdiction, privacy, laws etc.

  19. N Silver badge


    Whats the point?

    More buggy stuff to go hopelessly wrong

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Microsoft office on line

    Sounds like The Black Knight in Monty Python's "The Holy Graille".

  21. A J Stiles

    @Neil Barnes

    I grew up using Wordwise Plus on the BBC Model B, where what you saw on screen made no attempt to replicate what it might look like when printed (in fact, all text editing was done in a 40-column mode to save memory). You were forced to think about the textual content, and not about the layout.

    Then someone invented the "WYSIWYG" concept -- and from that moment on, word processing went completely and irreversibly tits-up, as people began to pay more attention to appearance than content. (The final triumph of style over substance came with WordPad, which eschewed sensible-but-mundane stuff such as a spelling checker in favour of the ability to use multiple fonts and text effects. Oh, and NotePad lost the ability -- which DOS EDIT always used to have -- to import unix / Amiga text files with LF line-endings.)

    In my last job, I once was tasked with editing a Word document created by someone who evidently didn't understand the difference between a word processor and a fancy typewriter. The whole mess had been laid out using spaces for formatting, randomly-applied bold/underlining/fonts -- and the table of contents was typed by hand. I kid you not, even the header on each page had been typed manually -- and the right-justification on odd-numbered pages done with spaces.

    My task was to insert one word into a paragraph. Unfortunately, that extra word caused it to overflow and, as a result, bollocks up the pagination of the *entire* document. I searched for somewhere, anywhere I could perhaps delete a line to compensate, but to no avail. It took me two days to replace all the crude space-formatting and create a *proper* table of contents (which would have survived any future insertions and deletions). All I got to show for it was a ticking-off for taking too long to "just quickly insert one word".

  22. Jason Law


    The text editor of real men (unless you have a beard and a predeliction for sandals - in which case 'ex' is the real deal).


    So much simpler than Ctrl-S, Alt-F4.


  23. John Bayly

    @Richard Thomas

    Shouldn't that be `Windows Button`-R ?

  24. Ron

    Microsoft Web Apps

    I think Microsoft is getting scared........

    They don't want to be left out of online apps......but want to retain their current client apps monopoly......(have cake and eat it - although they may end up with egg on face!)

    Remember how they suddenly realised that the Internet existed?

  25. David Wilkinson

    I have seen some creative uses for Google Docs

    Google Docs can be prove very useful. Its a quick and easy means of sharing and collaborating on simple documents without worrying what if any office programs are installed.

    Definitely not a killer app, but some people including myself find it very useful.


    My own personal theory is that Microsoft gets a unbearable rectal itch whenever someone to provides a useful product/service that doesn't involve the purchase of Microsoft's software.

    The only way to alleviate their maddening discomfort is to recreate the same product /service and tie it to the purchasing of a Microsoft Product.

  26. Hugh

    Fear Driven Greed

    Terrified by the prospect of their core business collapsing like sand castles when the time comes in, you can almost smell the corporate fear as middle managers are 'tasked' with impossible to achieve goals.

    They are SO 1980s with their 'lock-in' thinking.

    Fancy going into Beta with a half-baked product with massive ankle chains attached YEARS after other people have launched good honest and simple to use products with NO penalties or traps!

    This is just a big admission that the plot has been lost!

  27. amanfromMars Silver badge

    Microsoft Core Centres/Senders

    "The only way to alleviate their maddening discomfort is to recreate the same product /service and tie it to the purchasing of a Microsoft Product."


    Any budding Online/Live Application Architect is bound to tailor their Service for Microsoft to Purchase and/or Rent/Pay as You go/License. Saves Microsoft having to do any work and they get a slice of the cake.

  28. b166er


    Microsoft said users of its new service can only create or edit online documents if they have Office software already installed on their machines.

    Thereby ensuring that they also have Windows installed on their computers!

    Wonder if they would even work with 'alternative' browsers?

    One born every minute

  29. Olof P

    What is this?

    amanfromMars almost making sense? The end must truly be near!

  30. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    formatting - moi?

    use an xml editor to produce docbook then msxsl or xsltproc or fop according to which side you bat for. This eliminates _endless_ fiddling with tabs and styles and all the rest of it.

    If you need something prettier than docbook can do, get a graphics guy.

  31. Stan


    He/she/it is making the same amount of sense as ever. When it all starts to become clear it's time to watch out for the men in white coats :)

    Not even going to attempt to comment on this new MS wonderproduct, I'll have some of whatever their smoking though.


  32. OpenSorce Phreak

    Soooo, let me get this striaght....

    1) Google creates GoogleApps

    2) Ballmer throws chair against wall and then wants the same app

    3) Ballmer talks to Bill and decides to create "MS-Apps"

    4) Bill agrees, but requires the full install in order to work

    5) Bill has huge "pep rally" to get everyone excited

    6) Everyone stares at him in confusion?

    7) App fails miserably and Ballmer goes back to step 2

  33. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    I'm pissed, I really shouldn't drink on a monday but, right now i think this is the best bloody idea ever to come out of microsoft. Splendid.

    And if I can do good grammar (and spell it) without a spell checker, then it's only because the paperclip taught me over many years of doing it wrong. Word (that is the application, not the it a verb, or a noun? it didn't tell me that...) should be installed in all classrooms in place of teachers.

    This is all bollocks.

    The big question of course: Is it accessible on an iPhone??

  34. Morely Dotes

    Amazing case of Deja-Vu in Redmond

    "Microsoft said users of its new service can only create or edit online documents if they have Office software already installed on their machines."

    That's a bit like requiring someone to purchase a Volvo before they're permitted to ride the Tube, innit?

    Shortsighted? Counter-productive? Just downright stupid? Pick three.

  35. BitTwister

    Ooh looky

    “‘Online’ services are for organizations with more advanced IT needs where power and flexibility are critical.”

    Some early output from a new Microsoft program: MS IntelliGuff

  36. Jamie

    Insert your big words into me

    Of course, the simplest way to insert a single word into a wonky Word document is:

    - type a shift-return at the end of the line in question

    - shrink the text to horizontal scaling = 95%

    - insert the word you want

    Screw the table of contents. I have learned that there's never any thanks to be had from clearing up after other people's computer illiteracy.

  37. ben edwards


    Sounds as if owning Office allows you to register the ownership in your Live! profile, and thus allowing access to docs online from anywhere. Its less 'having both online+bloat' and more 'you paid us, heres your features'.

  38. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    fornicate M$ and the pig they rode in on!

    Sadly, this has been a plan/plot of M$ for years, with the proliferation of the net & all... But, the thing I find so comical is that their evil plan is being accelerated so they don't get left in the dust by the Open Source crowd... Mark my words, when things finally go critical, you'll see gobs of intellectual property or patent infringement lawsuits originating out of Redmond, or you'll see Bieve (the new entity that was formed when Bill & Steve's lips fused to each others butts) go on a web app publisher purchasing spree. Oh, and I almost forgot, there will be a lot of chair throwing, press leaks about how pissed the MS execs are and a high probability that MS will purchase Oracle just to screw with everybody...

    Either way, it's going to be damn funny and in the end we'll get screwed again courtesy of Microsoft.

  39. Daniel


    You are my hero for the day.

    Screw the damn lusers.


  40. David

    I can see this working.

    This could work, not because it is competitive when compared to Google Documents for example, but because people are generally stupid.

    MS Office just makes anyone who bought it look like an idiot with money to burn and no intelligence. Microsoft's whole business plan relies on the fact that people are stupid.

    The same people that will think Microsoft's new service is great will be the same people who embraced the Internet late, and had to buy their domain name for thousands of dollars coz someone smarter got there first.

    Microsoft know that their customers are stupid. That is why their OS tells you where to save your files and makes it hard to change things.

    So when people are told about Google Documents, they will proudly say, oh I don't need that, I use Microsoft's Office Live for Dummies. It's great coz I can share my docs that I made in my $200 Word processor. Then they will laugh at you and say "man you use Google", what a loser.

    This my friend is called the Microsoft Mentality. This mentality has made Microsoft rich.

    Bill Gates has duped a lot of people, but people are generally too stupid to see it.

  41. Chris

    Thanks for that, I needed cheering up this morning

    I wasn't in a very good mood this morning, didn't have the best night and then I open Firefox and find this little gem. Hehe, that brightened up my morning.

    "users of its new service can only create or edit online documents if they have Office software already installed on their machines" --> that is going to keep me chuckling all day for sure. Come on, what aboslute king of the morons came up with that one. The whole point of having documents in an online app is because it gives you the freedom to create and edit, WHEREVER you are and INDEPENDANT OF THE OS. You get it? That's exactly why Microsoft is never going to be a serious online player, because it clashes with their monopolistic business plan. The freedoms you get from online apps is exactly the freedoms they do NOT want you to have.

    But, as someone said in an earlier comment: one born every minute... so this kakamimi plan might of course work for those people.

    Thanks for the laugh, I needed that.


  42. Damian Turner-Steele


    Loose and lose won't ever show up in a spell check.

  43. A J Stiles


    "MS Office just makes anyone who bought it look like an idiot with money to burn and no intelligence."

    I don't think any home user ever actually *buys* MS Office -- almost every single copy out there is either an OEM preinstall, or pirated.

    The honest ones go out, buy a £50 office suite, and it generally serves their needs very well -- until they discover it can't (through nobody's fault but Microsoft's) properly import documents from the latest version of MS Office which their friends have bought preinstalled on their brand-new PCs. At that point, they abandon the "cheap" software and get a pirate copy of MS Office from the bloke down the pub (who genuinely believes he's "sticking it to The Man"; when in actual fact he's promoting Microsoft dependency just as much as Ballmer). Microsoft aren't too bothered by this; at least now this person's using their product, so they might even get another sale of the next Office version (which will break backwards-compatibility again; it's deliberate, it's their version of planned obsolescence) as a preinstall when this PC gets replaced.

    And that is how piracy hurts smaller software companies, even when it's not their software that's getting pirated.

  44. Bill Coleman

    plot not as lost as it looks!

    I can actually see where they are going with this. It might well be a very smart move ...let me explain:

    1. Business users a)know fuck all about IT and b)want their asses covered at all times. So they automatically go to microsoft for their software needs. It's like the old 80's catchphrase "nobody ever got sacked for buying an IBM".

    2. Online document editing is all about collaboration. Three people filling in cells on a spreadsheet at once while chatting about it. You don't need macros or VBA or anything more then then most basic data representation. It's really quite useful.

    3. Online = insecure. If an important business document gets into the wrong hands because a employees were using google docs the response would be "you prat, you shouldn't have been using google docs for sensitive information in the first place" and maybe "you're fired!". But if it was MS with their activeX IE quality assured and paid for business e-solution, complete with bloated bells and whistles, they would be totally exonerated.

    4. The business market is far more important then the domestic market. Much much larger revenues and a huge spillover to employees who then buy the same software for home use.

    Businesses don't use unsupported warranty-free freeware. Never have and probably never will. In fact, you could argue that google screwed up here - not taking the opportunity to market docs as a paid for business tool alongside their corporate email service.

  45. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Say what?

    "users of its new service can only create or edit online documents if they have Office software already installed on their machines"

    So they cannot delete the file?

  46. Andy Taylor

    I hate to defend M$ but...

    The web site says that you can use IE 6.0/7.0 or Firefox 2.0 on XP/Server 2003/Vista

    or Firefox 2.0 on Mac OS X 10.2.x or higher.

    Nowhere does it mention the need to own a copy of Office though....

  47. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    MS 'Online' Office

    This sounds horribly like all they are doing is setting up a hosted version of Sharepoint, accessible over the internet. That would be why you need local copies of the Office apps.

    For the uninitiated, Sharepoint is an INTRAnet based document sharing back end for MS Office 2007 ... and its an absolute pile of sh*te. It is ugly and clunky, and simply doesn't work in my experience.

  48. Mark Wills


    Get VMS. You know it makes sense.

  49. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Microsoft Office is available for Macs as well as PCs. So from what Andy Taylor says, I assume they're planning to support that. Not that Mac owners would do anything as square as a spreadsheet or write a letter when they could make a 15-minute video and upload it as a vodcast.

  50. Tom Silver badge

    people still use office?

    Always amuses me to see that people still think formatting text on a computer is somehow automating their office.

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