Microsoft rolled out Microsoft Office Web Apps on Skydrive to users in the U.S., U.K., Canada and Ireland yesterday. Users can login with their free Live accounts and create and edit Word 2010, PowerPoint 2010, OneNote 2010 and Excel 2010 documents in their browsers, and store them in the cloud. Users don't need an Office 2010 desktop license to use the apps, but the Skydrive version integrates with desktop versions of Office 2007 and 2010. There is also a beta version of Office Web Apps that can be deployed on-premise as part of Sharepoint.

Features include:

  • Drag and drop uploading from desktop to browser
  • Real-time, multiuser collaborative document editing
  • Version history
  • Searching across documents, including documents shared by other users
  • Read-only access from mobile phones

The Register reports Microsoft is not officially supporting Google's Chrome browser. However, we found that we were able to create and save documents from Chrome on a Windows 7 desktop.

This offering will doubtlessly bring comparisons with Google Docs. Office Web Apps feels quite similar, and is at least as functional as Google Apps but is lacking in major functionality, such as the ability to create charts and graphs in Excel (see comments below).

The on-premise option, desktop integration, and the familiar features and interface of Microsoft Office, makes Office Web Apps a strong competitor against Google's Google Apps and ZoHo as they market their office in the cloud solutions to the enterprise.

Last month, Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry writing for Business Insider, called on Google to buy Salesforce.com to improve their enterprise penetration. "Google Docs just can't compete with Microsoft Office on features, and while it's better at collaboration, that advantage will vanish as Microsoft moves these features to the cloud," he wrote.

Many other analysts disagreed, citing Google and Salesforce's radically different corporate cultures. But it's precisely these culture differences that Google could potentially benefit from if it really wants to step up its game against Microsoft in the enterprise.