Microsoft’s Office Web Apps have been around since 2010. Since then, they have slowly morphed from lightweight document viewers to relatively full-blown Office apps. Going forward, Microsoft senior product marketing manager Amanda Lefebvre wrote in a blog post last night, the plan is “to deliver Office Web Apps that people can rely on to create polished Office documents from start to finish, all from the Web.” To do this, Microsoft is going to focus on three key areas: user experience, social and collaboration, as well as better cross-platform support.
In concrete terms, Lefebvre writes, this means the Office Web Apps will soon get better collaboration tools. Currently, the Web Apps allow users to co-author documents, but Microsoft’s doesn’t allow for Google Wave-like, real-time co-authoring just yet. That, however, is in the pipeline. Microsoft, she writes, will “introduce real time co-authoring in the Office Web Apps so that all file authors will automatically see presence and edits from others as they happen without needing to refresh.” This feature is already available in the PowerPoint Web App today and will surely roll out to the other apps in the near future.
Also in the queue for the near future is the ability to edit documents via mobile Chrome on Android. Windows 8 tablet and iPad users can already do this, but as Microsoft has focused on Windows and iOS, Android users have often been left behind. Microsoft says it wants to “enable you to access Office content and tools from your device of choice through cross browser support on those devices where Office isn’t installed or available.”
Other new features and enhancements in the Microsoft pipeline include support for easier file management from the apps, faster launch times and support for “find and replace” in the Word app.