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Microsoft punts web-based apps to the masses

Browser-based Word and Excel? Er, not exactly

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In a bid to spin its web-based version of Office into contention with rival internet behemoth Google, Microsoft has said it will begin accepting applications for beta testing its web apps later this year.

The software giant's suite of applications, which include the ubiquitous Excel and Word, has been a hugely profitable income generator for the firm.

But, with users increasingly turning to free online applications from the likes of Google and OpenOffice for their word processing and spreadsheet needs, it's no wonder Microsoft has decided to cautiously ramp up its web-based version of Office.

There is one significant difference, however: unlike Google apps, Microsoft said users of its new service can only create or edit online documents if they have Office software already installed on their machines.

Microsoft said features of its Office Live Workspace would include allowing users to upload more than 1,000 documents to free personal websites.

There will also be an option for documents to be shared in a password-protected environment.

For anyone who doesn't have Office installed, features will be restricted via a read-only browser, although users will still have the ability to comment on the document.

The vendor sought to give the beta program a healthy lick of corporate spin, saying "'Online' services are for organisations with more advanced IT needs where power and flexibility are critical." Other apps under the program include Exchange and Sharepoint.

The software mammoth claimed its online strategy would help businesses enforce data access, control and compliance policies, "while providing performance, scalability, enhanced security, management features and service-level capabilities to support mission-critical applications and systems.”

Microsoft business division president Jeff Raikes said: "We are taking a significant step forward by combining our deep client and server software experience with our strong commitment to delivering flexible services offerings for our wide variety of customers and their unique needs."

Anyone wanting to beta-test the web-based features of Office can apply to do so from today, said Microsoft.

The full Microsoft press release is here. ®

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