June 08, 2010, 11:38 AM — Pssst...have you heard? Microsoft has some great Web services.
Microsoft's Web services are so often overlooked that they're just about the software giant's best kept secret. But Microsoft is no Web-service slouch. In recent months the company has beefed up its Internet-based offerings with Office Web Apps, cool mapping tools, and desktop productivity software for making your data and core applications available anywhere on multiple devices, such as netbooks, smartphones, or PCs at an Internet café.
For this article I hunted down five of Microsoft's newer Web services that I think deliver better functionality than what Google and other competitors offer. I've also added a couple of tips related to the Hotmail overhaul that's expected to roll out soon.
Get Office Web Apps Right Now
Office Web Apps, currently in beta, are scheduled to go live June 15 when Microsoft Office 2010 hits store shelves. They're free, online versions of Microsoft's popular Office programs--namely, Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote--that you can access from a Web browser. But you don't need to wait until then: You can start using Office Web Apps right now. All you need to get started is your Windows Live ID and a document to upload to Windows Live SkyDrive.
First, go to skydrive.live.com, and click Add files above your SkyDrive folders. Next, select a folder and upload the file you want to use from your desktop. Afterward, you'll see a page showing the contents of your SkyDrive folder. Above the files should be a small line of text that says, 'Join our preview program to create, edit, view, and share Office documents online!'
Click Join our preview program and then select Agree at the bottom of the end-user license agreement. You're now set up to use Office Web Apps.