SlideShare, a startup that we’ve likened to a YouTube equivalent for PowerPoint presentations, has released a new plugin for Microsoft Office 2007 that allows users to edit and publish presentations directly to their SlideShare accounts. You can download the free plugin here.
Beyond publishing new PowerPoint documents to the web, the SlideShare plugin can import SlideShare files from the cloud (both your own and those that are shared by others), which can then be modified on your native PowerPoint client. The plugin features an integrated search so you can browse through files from your SlideShare contacts and groups, as well as support for Twitter and FriendFeed so you can broadcast a new presentation without leaving Office, adding a social component to PowerPoint that extends beyond typical group collaboration.
SlideShare’s plugin offers a peek into where cloud-based document editing is probably ultimately headed for most consumers. While most online-only services like Google Docs are free (Office isn’t), the vast majority of computer users have been using the Microsoft suite for years, and aren’t keen on learning a new interface loaded with new quirks. Even with the offline capability afforded by Google Gears, Docs still feels foreign. Expect plugins with functionality similar to SlideShare to emerge for all of Microsoft Office (Microsoft already offers its own similar service) as consumers desperately look for familiarity as they make their first steps into the cloud.