June 17, 2010, 1:27 PM — Is the era of desktop software over? With the general release of Office 2010 this week, Microsoft seems to be sending a mixed message. On the one hand, Office 2010 is the slickest, most feature-rich version of the suite to date. That's a clear challenge to Google, which offers a simpler, Web-based alternative to Office in the form of Google Docs. On the other hand, the simultaneous release of the Office 2010 Web Apps seems to vindicate Google's strategy by duplicating Office functionality on the Web. So which is it?
My first impression of the prerelease versions of the Office Web Apps was that they were remarkably polished. Office documents displayed flawlessly, with fidelity unmatched by any Web-based competitor. Many features were missing, however -- most notably the ability to edit documents -- so my ultimate assessment was reserved. Now that Office 2010 has shipped, I thought it high time to revisit the suite to see what Microsoft has actually delivered. Are the Office Web Apps a true competitor to Google Docs, a valuable addition to the Office product family, or merely a Web-based novelty?
[ Also on InfoWorld: From powerful productivity enhancers to important security safeguards, the new Microsoft Office has a number of features that businesses will love. See "Top 10 Office 2010 features for business." ]
Office Web Apps: Broad platform and browser support First off, the Office Web Apps' browser support is to be commended. Officially Microsoft is supporting only recent versions of Firefox, Internet Explorer, and Safari, but in practice most standards-compliant browsers appear to work equally well (including Google Chrome). Gone, seemingly, are the days when Microsoft tried to shoehorn customers into IE with ActiveX controls and nonstandard Web features.