Microsoft adds real-time joint editing to Office Web Apps

The company is also launching a partner program for its Yammer enterprise social collaboration suite

By , IDG News Service |  Enterprise Software, Social Networking, Yammer

Office Web Apps, the browser-based, pared-down version of the Microsoft suite, now lets people co-edit documents in real time, a capability its main rival Google Docs has had for more than two years.

Until now, people could jointly edit Office Web Apps documents but changes had to be saved for other collaborators to see them. With the new live co-authoring feature, colleagues will see each other's modifications as they're made.

Microsoft, which announced the feature on Thursday, has also added auto-save to the suite's Word application. The other three applications -- Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote -- already had this feature.

"We're putting a lot of effort on Office Web Apps," said John Case, Microsoft's corporate vice president for Office marketing.

Office Web Apps is available as a standalone, free suite, and is also included with Office 365, the cloud collaboration and communication suite for businesses that includes online versions of Exchange, SharePoint and Lync.

The applications are designed as a complement to the full-featured desktop Office productivity suite. Office Web Apps doesn't have as many applications, and the applications it does have aren't as feature rich.

However, Office Web Apps has given Microsoft an answer to Google Docs with an offering for users looking for browser-based, lightweight productivity apps.

In Google Docs, people can co-edit in real time word processing documents, spreadsheets and presentations, and now it'll be possible to do that in Office Web Apps' Word, Excel and PowerPoint apps.

Perhaps more importantly, Office Web Apps has been tuned recently so that it works and renders particularly well in the iPad's Safari browser. Thus, it lets Microsoft offer a version of Office to iPad users, while it continues to develop a native, full-featured edition of the suite for the Apple tablet.

Microsoft is also launching a partner initiative for Yammer. Called Yammer Partner Enablement Program, it's intended for strengthening partners' abilities to sell, implement and support Yammer rollouts. In addition, Microsoft will bundle Yammer with all Office 365 Enterprise editions, which means all Office 365 Enterprise customers will receive licenses for the Yammer Enterprise product.

Microsoft bought Yammer in 2012 for $1.2 billion to boost the enterprise social collaboration capabilities of SharePoint and of many of its other products, including Office, Outlook, Lync and Dynamics. The process of integrating Yammer with SharePoint and the others is ongoing.

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