By Tara Lane, Staff Writer
When Canadian company i4i sued Microsoft this past August, watchdogs in the software community predicted that the move would encourage Microsoft to bring up their plans for a move to cloud computing much earlier than planned – and it looks like they were right. In addition to the announcements of a new and improved version of Internet Explorer and a major update of the Silverlight runtime platform at this week’s Microsoft at the Professional Developer’s Conference, the software giant also released the cloud-based Microsoft Office 2010 in beta version.
The move to the cloud has been in the works for a while, as Microsoft faces stiff competition from Google. Although Word is still the number one word processing platform across the board, the results of a survey by research firm IDC reported that Google Docs was being “widely used” by 19.5 percent of all companies surveyed. Docs is good for businesses because it allows users to collaborate in real time from nearly anywhere, including smartphones, and it’s at no cost to users either.
It is unclear how much of an impact Office online will have on Google Docs. There are still benefits to Docs, at its use flows seamlessly between Google accounts. Still, Office online is poised to have some great features as well. In addition to improved aspects such as graphics, templates and streamlined processes, Office 2010 also promises collaboration features, called “co-authoring,” available on Word, Powerpoint and Excel. Even though Docs has been around for much longer, users who are more comfortable with the Microsoft platform already may also choose to stay for matters of convenience, function and mobility. For business relying on PowerPoint and Excel files on a daily basis, the online versions may prove extremely helpful in eliminating wasted time with compatibility issues as well as the potential for losing documents on a portable drive.
Cloud computing technology is all around, yet few realize how much we take advantage of it. From e-mail to music streaming and photo hosting, much of our lives are on the cloud. The advantages of cloud computing often far outweigh the negatives: seemingly unlimited storage space, data backup, and free upgrades are offered through these services. All users need is an Internet connection and a computer. With the debut of Google’s Chrome operating system, even more people will become familiar with cloud computing and all it has to offer.
People interested in Office 2010 can visit the official Web site for a rundown of new features and an opportunity to try out the cloud-based versions of Word, PowerPoint and Excel. Microsoft plans to release the full versions to the general public in early 2010. In addition to the Office’s main programs, Office 2010 includes upgrades for Outlook, Access, Publisher, InfoPath, SharePoint, Project, and Visio.
In looking over this site, Microsoft looks like it’s really outdone itself. The designs are much more streamlined, and the features and functionality are very appealing. The only downsides for the mobile versions seem to be the necessity of downloading additional applications to fully connect with every feature. This is an area where they might hopefully improve, as Google does have the upper hand. At any rate, there is no doubt that 2010 is shaping up to be an interesting year in the way of technology – especially cloud computing.