After a lengthy phase of beta testing, Microsoft finally unleashed its long-awaited update to the Office 2007 desktop productivity suite.
Office 2010 includes a number of new features, among them a redesigned menu system, improved inline multimedia editing, real-time collaboration, improved security settings and — perhaps the biggest of them all — a cloud-based web apps component that aims to compete with Google Docs.
The online component of Office 2010 includes web-based versions of Word, PowerPoint, Excel and OneNote. They’re largely positioned as companion apps to their full desktop counterparts, making them arguably less powerful as standalone services than existing cloud champions Google Docs or Zoho.
Never one to sit idly by, Google has already launched the first volley in the coming Office Wars by suggesting Office 2007 users would be better served by “upgrading” to Google Docs instead. Still, with an enormous existing base of business Office users, Microsoft will undoubtedly benefit from its incumbent position in the marketplace. Nor have things been totally rosy for Google Docs uptake lately, with Yale University and UC Davis recently dumping the search giant’s cloud services over privacy and security concerns.
Nevertheless, a number of schools are embracing Google services in order to reap all the advantages that come with productivity in the cloud. Will the online component of Microsoft Office 2010 be enough to stave off the competition from Google, Zoho and others? It remains to be seen, but it’s certainly a sign of the times that the once staunchly desktop-chained Office suite has put its head firmly into the cloud.