Have you been waiting for Microsoft to finally put its Office applications into the cloud? Have you been waiting for Microsoft to put a “free” tag on those apps? Well, your time has come. Office Web Apps, MS’ free online version of its Office suite, is now liveon SkyDrive and available for U.S., U.K., Ireland and Canada-based users.
With the simple creation of a Windows Live account, you can start playing with the new tools. You will find browser-based versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint and even OneNote that mimic much of the look and function of their desktop sibilings. Silverlight improves some of the experience (such as uploading multiple docs at the same time), but is unnecessary. All modern browsers will work with the tools. It’s not the desktop experience, for sure. But it meets Google Docs head on. You can upload (drag and drop!), collaborate with others, create within the web environment, print right from the browser and read docs on your smart phone. And, if you have Office 2010 installed locally (releasing next week), the web counterparts really sparkle with a seamless desktop / web experience. With 25GB of free storage on SkyDrive, this combination of features is nothing to sneeze at.
The Windows team is also promising lots of Office features will be integrated into Hotmail, so stay tuned to that.
Instant access to your most valuable information from anywhere at any time is certainly a dream worth indulging. You can get much of the way to realizing that dream with various free and paid services. CIO.com has the lowdown on many of the options in this article by Ryan Faas of Computerworld.
The real challenge to the dream is the ability to make changes at one vantage point along your cloud-like chain and have that change reflected all across the stratosphere. This requires some sort of syncing capability controlled by a server in the cloud.
The four free services explored in the article include Google, Microsoft Windows Live, Yahoo Mail and Plaxo. The two paid services include Apple’s MobileMe and Microsoft’s Hosted Exchange. Hit the jump above for Faas’ take on each service’s strengths and weaknesses.
I primarily am using the paid service MobileMe, which syncs with my desktop’s Outlook 2007, which in turn syncs with Google Calendar. My Google Calendar is accessible by both my husband and I so that we can keep tabs of both business and personal commitments. I am driving the syncing process from my iPhone, as that is my preferred method of calendar entry. I am not fully exploiting the cloud capabilities of MobileMe, mostly using the services for the wireless syncing ability. This system is working well for me at this time.
When considering which approach to use, examine your own habits and determine how you input your information and how you prefer to access that information. One of the options examined by Faas should fit the bill.
Would love to hear what other people are doing about keeping their information up to date at all points along the cloud chain.