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?