Office Web Apps Update: The Balance of the Cloud Connected Desktop

Here’s something you don’t hear that often from Microsoft. A number of new releases out on the three-month anniversary of its newest software offering.

More usual is the two-year gap as is the case with most software companies that have been in the business for any period of time.

But this past week, Principal Lead Program Manager Jason Moore penned a blog post that said more than 20 million people have used Office Web Apps since its launch in June. By any measure, that’s a lot of people.

So, we have to consider this: “Holy freakin’ (fill in the Dave McClure expletive) – does Microsoft have a winner on its hands?”

We have to consider the possibility. The service is now available in the United States, United Kingdom and Ireland. With this new feature upgrade, people in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, France, Belgium, Russia and Australia may now also use the service, too.

In the three months since the launch, about 25,000 people have commented on Office Web Apps. They built the feedback into new features such as Power Point embedding:

Comments included the feedback that 90% of online docs were first created on the desktop.

That feedback is built deep into the feature set with the smart syncing now available for people who leverage Office from the desktop.

You can open a file directly into Office Apps. You may also embed Power Point and Excel documents that can be updated from the desktop. This powerful feature is representative of what gives Office Web Apps its appeal to so many people.

Syncing is an increasingly intrinsic feature of storage services. Dropbox and Box.net both have desktop syncing. On some levels it is also a testament to the connected nature of cloud computing. You could almost call it a cable cloud. The cables are attached to a cloud via the documents on the desktop – they’re a metaphor for networks. Software that work on durable network infrastructures have been a hallmark of IT for decades. Now the cables are longer and virtual. Using this metaphor, Office Web Apps is a cable cloud. The infrastructure needed to make it available online is built on machines but the information is part of a stream that extends worldwide. Docs are shared, edited and distributed through cloud networks.

As part of this feature release, Excel Workbook now integrates with mobile, making charts and tables available on the go. Again, the metaphor fits. It’s a cable cloud environment.

The syncing capabilities of the cable cloud is one of its wonderful benefits. It’s what provides a kind of flexibility in our lives that our aunts and uncles still find odd to some extent. They don’t shun it; some even love it -especially when they get that sweet pic of your cute little kiddos you sent them while on that business trip to Topeka.

We expect Microsoft will continue on this syncing bent. It actually make sense. But it depends on an important factor. And that’s the development cycle itself. Microsoft has a sure hit it they can keep pace by listening to people who just want to get their work done and share a moment or two during the fast work hours we keep.

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