I’m struggling to think of a desktop application which is more ubiquitous than Microsoft Office. It’s a standard: your business will struggle if you can’t open Word, Excel or PowerPoint files (that’s not to say you need MS Office, but you certainly must be able to open and create Office-compatible documents).
However, Microsoft’s second biggest cash cow is being threatened on three fronts:
- Cheaper or open source alternatives such as OpenOffice.org. It’s not as slick or as popular as MS Office, but OOo is a great suite and usage is growing.
- The rise of free online office suites such as Google Docs. While few people will use an online application for complex work, they have become increasingly sophisticated and collaboration facilities are useful.
- The older versions of Office. Why should anyone upgrade from Office 2003 or 2007 when they do everything you need?
Microsoft must innovate to entice upgrades and keep the competition at bay. As part of the Office 2010 release, the company is offering free online versions of their Office Suite.
One of the first versions can be found at Docs.com. That’s a great domain name — I wonder how much they paid for it? Interestingly, it uses your Facebook login credentials. Microsoft own a small share in the social networking site but it also means you can share documents and collaborate with Facebook friends.
Docs.com is a beta product and you’ll need to sign up and wait for an invite. Once you have access, you’ll be able to use and create Word documents, Excel spreadsheets and PowerPoint presentations.
But is it any good? I’ve been using the system for a few days a full review is available now…
Craig is a freelance UK web consultant who built his first page for IE2.0 in 1995. Since that time he's been advocating standards, accessibility, and best-practice HTML5 techniques. He's created enterprise specifications, websites and online applications for companies and organisations including the UK Parliament, the European Parliament, the Department of Energy & Climate Change, Microsoft, and more. He's written more than 1,000 articles for SitePoint and you can find him @craigbuckler.