Technical Preview of Office Web Apps

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Two aspects of the web that are driving innovation are collaboration and lowering costs, of which almost any new web service or site provides. Recently Microsoft started the Technical Preview of Microsoft Office Web Apps which includes both of these. Office Web Apps (OWA) enable the editing, sharing, and storing of Microsoft Word, Excel, Powerpoint, and OneNote files online, through most browsers and any operating system.

While Microsoft has not announced the pricing for this service, they have alluded that it will either be free or ad-supported, similar to the other Office Live services. This could reduce greatly costs within your church by reducing the number of licenses of Office that are purchased for individuals that do not need the full functionality that the desktop application offers.

Once this service is launched your church will be able to collaborate within committees and other groups by sharing documents. It also enables several different individuals to edit a document at the same time. For example, if you uploaded your bulletin your music director could change a song, while the pastor inserts a couple notes, and the secretary updates the prayer requests. No more emailing files so that they can insert their information.

You probably are already familiar with Google Docs (which we mentioned on an article here) which provides the same functionality, but Microsoft has implemented several features to draw people away from Google Docs. Microsoft hopes that the consistent interface from the desktop to the web and OWA's tight integration into Office 2010 will encourage users to switch.

OWA was announced almost two years ago and still is just in Technical Preview, so it will be a while longer before it is available to the public. If you would like to investigate it for your church, sign up for a preview here.

Do you see this fostering collaboration and lowering costs at your church? Have you tried the technical preview yet?

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Admin

I hardly ever use Microsoft Office anymore. Even though I've got it installed, I find Google Docs so much more convenient.

But I've also discovered that it's not easy to transition people to Docs. After using Office products for so many years, the whole concept of Google Docs and online collaboration in general is so strange. So there's the tendency to go back to the tried-and-true method of creating a Word document, attaching it to an email, track changes, and all the other stuff that now drives me nuts.

So I think Microsoft has a real opportunity to bridge that gap and help people move to web-based documents and collaboration...while keeping them in the Office family they know and love.

Any churches fully 'in the cloud' when it comes to meeting agendas, minutes, etc?

This is very good news. It will be great to have some serious competition to Google docs.

From my perspective in a rural church, it seems like moving the assemblies and committees of the church fully into the cloud is still several years away. It isn't worth moving agendas and minutes into the cloud if there will be a noticeable portion of the committee that won't use the new medium. I've noticed this even with email. At this point, I'm not even sure it is worth me emailing all of the council members the agenda because a noticeable number of them don't rely on email and don't check it daily. They would much prefer a paper agenda.

I'm eager to use the cloud for agendas and minutes because it would make the work of committees so much easier. But it would only do so if everybody is on board. For that reason, I'm glad Microsoft is going to be pushing Office users in that direction. The sooner the better!

Nick, Good point about Google having some serious competition. Competition will speed up Google and Microsoft's development of their products and will only benefit us, the users.

Tim, I'm eager to see the integration with Office and the Web app. I hope they make it easy, but I'm leery because this is Microsoft.

Another competitor to Microsoft Office is Open Office which is free and compatible. Third world countries love such software!

I have found that any company which sells you something designs it so that everyone 'needs' to purchase similar items every three years.

I do not trust Microsoft, nor Google web based or not. It is likely that in three years most of what you have now will be incompatible with what comes next.

Who has a strategy that avoids such costs?

Admin

Hey, Dave, you beat Mashable to the punch! Some good points made in their article and comment stream:
http://mashable.com/2010/06/09/microsoft-office-web-apps/