back to article Microsoft's Office Web Apps - a long way from here

The arrival of an online version of Microsoft Office is a significant event, especially after IDC's Melissa Webster reported that nearly 20 per cent of companies already use Google Docs (if not exclusively). Last week, Redmond released an invitation-only Technical Preview of Office Web Apps. But does it have what it takes to …


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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Gates Horns

    Does not work on

    Macs, Linux, or Firefox.

    This is a feature, not a shortcoming.

  2. Anonymous Coward

    Finally, they removed VBA...

    Which is great news in many fronts. First, a major source of viruses is gone. Second, those enterprise decision makers rejecting OpenOffice for its lack of VBA no longer have reasons to continue doing so, at least if they accept Office Live in the office workspace.

    But is also bad in other fronts: gone are the quick and dirty script jobs that allowed you to automate mundane tasks in all fronts from operating system management, reporting from many data sources to, ahem, spreadsheet handling.

  3. Derek Kingscote

    Three essential items

    Microsoft's Office Web Apps - a long way from here

    Yeah, but a lot, lot further than you think!

    at first consideration :

    1 Ubiquity Can you connect to your stuff anywhere in the world

    2 Functionality It's got to work properly

    3 Availability It's gotta be there whenever you want it


    1 Where will it be hosted ?

    2 much of it is not yet done e.g. :

    This is one of the least complete Technical Previews that I have known Microsoft to release

    I soon found other shortcomings ...

    no printing

    to mention just three of countless missing features ...

    You can share a document with others and enjoy simultaneous editing, but I found this problematic in practice because there is no indication of what another person is currently editing. This means you can inadvertently overwrite another person's work

    The preview uses Windows Live, though, and according to product manager Chris Adams, this partly explains why it is so rough

    3 See 1! Plus support; maintenance; backup etc etc

    Another case of Microsoft pre-announcing something in the expectation that business will wait.

    This time, however, they've missed the boat. Lookout for M$ buying companies to provide what M$ is incapable of delivering themselves.

    M$ also has the following issues to contend with :

    20 per cent of companies already use Google Docs [and students too since some of their work is done in teams - sitting in your own room scoffing pizza and sharing data!]

    If it's the end of June next year, they have 40 working weeks to build, test, debug and deliver a usable product.

    What are their chances ?

    The "irrelevant" internet turned out to be their nemesis.

    Later consideration will identify other stuff too !

  4. Norfolk Enchants Paris

    @Derek Kingscote.. Oh Puhleeeeze

    Can we please drop the tired, teenaged "M$" rubbish. It's about as funny as the "my dog has no nose" joke.

    You should also use the Troll icon.

    There are any number of shortcomings with MS Office let alone MS Office Web Apps - but please show me the perfect application suite & I'll use it.

    Rather than demonstrate the closed-minded approach that you seem to be stuck with, why not have a look and see what this might do to existing web-based apps. Ponder this: Surely this is the sort of competition that you would want to see to ensure that Google Apps and so forth are pushed and challenged to make them better and better? Or would you prefer that MS slunk off somewhere and let Google turn into what you perceive MS to be today?

  5. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

    Virtual Movers and Shakers........ Creating AI Stir and Fundamentalist Change

    The Office is dead .... Ubiquitous Global Connectivity has the Cloud and ITs Servers and Advanced SMARTer Thin Clients as the new Commercial Real Estate Space Controller of Business and Human Intelligence.

    Coming soon ........ An Alien Primer and Full Monty Beginners Instruction Set.

  6. This post has been deleted by its author

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    RE: Derek Kingscote

    I wish I could agree with you. I don't like MS as much as the next man, I think the typical office set-up needs to devolve and un-microsoft a bit, but I can't help but think your post is just wishful thinking.

    The reality is this is a new technology, MS will put their goods forward and eventually people will buy into them as the platform becomes more stable. They will just sit it out and lose money until it becomes the product it should have been in the first place and then make a killing.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Not competeing with Google?

    "We see the web apps, for most businesses, as an extension of the Office experience, not a replacement for them,"

    Oddly, that's almost exactly what a Google rep told us when pitching Google Mail/Docs as a possible corporate solution. Even Google themselves aren't daft enough to believe Google docs can compete with the likes of Excel in every scenario.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Black Helicopters

    A bigger question...

    20% of companies use Google Docs already ..hmm.. Microsoft hosting Office Docs on Microsoft Live... hmm...

    Companies will need to very quickly and very seriously deal with data security in the cloud frontier. This will also impinge upon the cloud companies who will need to be transparent around where data is stored.

    If companies begin to break into the cloud then safe harbour regulations, personnel data, data privacy, and data security (who has access to what and can you guarentee that some cloud support engineer is not peeking) become real issues to manage...

    I can't wait for the first law suit...

  10. Anonymous Coward

    What a waste

    I work at a place that uses Google Docs pretty extensively for certain functions so as to allow multiple people in multiple places to access the same document simultaneously. Our internet connection is top notch, but the bottom line is that Google Docs sucks due to the huge latency. The latency is a direct consequence of it being a web app, and that issue is one that Google (or Microsoft) cannot remove. So unless you are so inept at typing and editing as to naturally be slow as molasses, you find it trivial to over run the Google Docs application you are working on, which doing so turns the document into a mess. Google Docs also is feature poor, but features can always be added.

    Everyone I know who uses Google Docs extensively complains about the latency issue. Why Microsoft feels it has to follow Google down this retched road is beyond me.

  11. Woodgar

    @Mosh Jahan - Works In IE

    "Microsoft should focus it's efforts on making it work 100% in IE; that would be in its own interests."

    I disagree.

    Surely the whole point of these cloud apps is that they are platform agnostic and accesable everywhere?

  12. Anonymous Coward

    According to MS ...

    ... they claimed that this would work on Mac, Linux and any standards-compliant browser. So, they were just talking though their arse, then? OK, no surprises there.

    BUT, a word-processor that doesn't print? Gee, that' IS only something that MS could come up with. Spent all that time making sure that it sports the stupid unloved "ribbon" thing but -duh- it can't output to anything. Genius.

    Go away.

  13. Wize

    20% seems a bit high

    Its a technology that has proven to have holes after they let people have access to other's documents a while back.

    Many companies don't even allow company sensitive documents to go onto machines they don't own (so no working on your own PC at home or transferring files via your own memory stick)

  14. Tom Chiverton 1 Silver badge

    Don't step on that...

    "spreadsheets driven by VBA will not work" - oh dear, hoisted on their own petards eh ?

  15. JoeSchmo

    Why.... people come on here and comment about a technical preview bemoaning the fact that it is feature incomplete. Its a technical preview FFS.

    Yes Greg, you are that FAIL.

  16. Tim Anderson

    Printing support

    > BUT, a word-processor that doesn't print? Gee, that' IS only something that MS could come up

    > with.

    It is Excel Web App that can't print in the preview. Word prints; it does so by converting to Adobe PDF. This caused me some confusion at first, because printing prompted me to download a file. The reason is that I have Acrobat browser integration turned off. I imagine that Excel will work in the same way eventually, but who knows?


  17. JWS

    Does it work?

    Well so long as it actually work because Google's attempt is quite frankly terrible, it's slow and seriously lacking in features.

  18. Cantankerous Old Buzzard

    The term you're groping for

    is probably "smoke and mirrors".

    In this case, the mirrors are provided by the Web, and the smoke is generated by that wonderful fraternity party practice of lighting farts.

  19. Richard 102


    "This is one of the least complete Technical Previews that I have known Microsoft to release".

    Gad. That's like being the most corrupt politician.

    The latency issue that the AC brought up is a good point. I wonder if Google/MS/whoever will start licensing their office server so people can host these in-house. This would be great for large enterprises. Of course, it would require an infrastructure investment ...

  20. Tim Anderson

    In-house hosting

    @Richard 102

    Yes, you can host in-house; the web apps are a feature of SharePoint 2010.


  21. Duncan Hothersall

    Re: What a waste

    I use Google Docs extensively (for appropriate purposes, not heavy lifting) and have never had significant trouble with latency. When I'm on a slow or flaky network it switches to slow/flaky network mode, which is dependent on Gears, and reverts to local saving as appropriate. It has always worked well for me. Just wanted to give you an alternate view.

  22. Greg 10

    @AC: you don't get the big picture

    >Everyone I know who uses Google Docs extensively complains about the latency issue. Why Microsoft feels it has to follow Google down this retched road is beyond me.

    The reason why they feel they have to follow is simple: the benefits, which you cite, are huge in many cases (simultaneous editing is a must-have for the future in lots of situations), while the drawbacks you rightfully cite are big, but actually irrelevant.

    GoogleDocs has Gears: with Gears, you can act locally, while synchronizing with the net whenever you can. This means the latency problem when you type (not when you read what the other guys around the earth type, but you can' treally complain that the ADDED features are not perfect, as long as the previously existing ones are not degraded) is basically something that can disappear anyday and forever.

    Admittedly, last time I checked gears, it didn't yet have that functionnality, as it only synchronized after an offline period, not when you were online but were too fast for the file to sync, but that doesn't matter: it's doable and will clearly be done if GoogleDocs has a future, and since you're talking about going down the road, we need to look ... down the road, especially when that improvement is obvious.

    As for why MICROSOFT is following down that not-retched-at-all road, it's even more obvious: Microsoft has the advantage of having the local app already pre-existing. That means it's easy to rpevent any problem of latency: once their app is decent, in four or five years according to our experience with M$, you'll just type in your Office suite and have no latency problem EVER, and it'll just synchronize online.

    A last point is that you only get latency problems when you put your files in the cloud. And you probably didn't yet know that, as opposed to Google, M$ has said their collaborative suite could be hosted locally if you wanted: you can store this no your own servers, and collaborate companywide without latency (well, ok, if your collaborating with someone half-way across the world, yes, you will still have latency, but that's not the poitn you were complaining about I suppose). Hence an even bigger attractivity: no latency, no security problem, no risk of losing the data except by your own company's fault.

    See why they're following Google down that nice road? The problem you cite is a very solvable one, which M$ doesn't even HAVE to solve in the first place (Google, once again, does have to, yes).

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    @ JoeSchmo

    I may well, be "that FAIL" but I'd not even actually BOTHER making available an office suite demo on-line that didn't at least try to embody *basic* functionality. Notice I say *basic*. That means printing. Not a fucking ribbon.

    Its rather like demoing a video adapter without a monitor. Pointless.

    Paris because you seem to have as much clue as she and MS do when it comes to demoing software, complete or not.

  24. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @ Tim Anderson

    I'm aware of the fact it outputs a PDF. So what? It doesn't attempt to print directly which isn't too clever.

  25. adaytay

    @Finally, they removed VBA...

    ...errr, no. VBA support is not included in WebApps, but VBA is still (thankfully) very much still there in Office 2010, and will be there for several incarnations yet!

  26. Tim Anderson



    Well, PDF is in effect the print engine. Since Silverlight doesn't print (yet) and browser printing is not precise enough I doubt Microsoft had much choice. The fact that it uses Adobe technology wasn't mentioned in the press briefing :-)


  27. Anonymous Coward


    I've not used the Web Apps preview, nor am I likely to. But what's with all the comments about a lack of printing support?

    Which decade are you people living in? Printing is a last resort, as far as I'm concerned, not a core piece of functionality any more.

  28. JoeSchmo


    It's not a demo, it's a technical preview.

    Just so you can understand here is the dictionary definition of preview

    "anything that gives an advanced idea or impression of something to come."

    You see, it's not hard is it to get things correct, instead of pointlessly slagging something off for the sake of.

    You are still a FAIL.

  29. Fred Tourette
    Gates Horns

    Leave No Road Unowned

    "Why Microsoft feels it has to follow Google down this retched road is beyond me."

    Because Microsoft wants to own every single road, even the shitty ones.

  30. Kevin Bailey

    But does it have what it takes to fend off the likes of Google, Zoho, and Adobe's

    'But does it have what it takes to fend off the likes of Google, Zoho, and Adobe's'

    'Fend off' ???????

    What kind of subtle twisting is this.

    You're implying that MS is the dominant force - and it's having to fend off new upstarts. Whereas Google is about to make the final ascent on Everest - and MS haven't even got on the bus to the training ground in Bromley.

    I'm starting to worry about the contributors having been borged.

  31. Steven Jack

    Still in development

    Let's just remind ourselves what this is an invitation only technical preview. NOT a finished product, NOT a early beta, NOT in any way feature complete!

    It is an early glimpse of a product still very much in development and something that is having to be built from the ground up.

    To read some of these comments you would think this was gold code! One thing is clear there is a long way to go. Of course these apps will never provide all the functionality of the paid for Office Suite it’s a way of getting people into the eco system with cut down versions and also a way of allowing office users to do basic editing on the move.

    The thing that pisses the Microsoft haters off out there is that Office is far and away the best suite out there, yes it can be pricey compared to free for open office, but you get what you pay for.

  32. ElReg!comments!Pierre

    @ Steven Jack

    "but you get what you pay for"

    one more for the "drooling morons" file. Seriously, people, stop using this expression. Depending on how you take it it is either *always* wrong or *always* true, so what's the point? It's just useless chatter. Well, it is useful as a "I've nothing nothing interesting to say" statement, so the other people can just say Hmm hmm and go talk to someone with a brain.

    I won't answer the rest of the post obviously.

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