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Clouds hang over Microsoft Office, SharePoint 2010 launch

Joab Jackson | May 13, 2010
The Redmond giant takes on the cloud with the release of Office 2010 and SharePoint 2010

For instance, one new feature, co-authoring, would save this large organization $3 million alone, with its ability to allow multiple people to work on the same document at the same time.

Elop said the new software will make workers so much more productive that it would pay for itself within a year. The software would offer the equivalent of two extra work weeks of work per employee per year.

Microsoft 2010 certainly has a bevy of new features, all aimed at greater efficiency and productivity. Perhaps most notably, the Outlook e-mail client has been revamped with more powerful management capabilities, such as the ability to handle threaded conversations. It also has what is called a Social Connector, or the ability to fuse social data from LinkedIn and Facebook. PowerPoint can now be used to make presentations viewable on the Internet. The ribbon interface has been streamlined and has been applied to all applications.

The suite also includes, for the first time, Microsoft's note-taking program, OneNote.

With this package, Microsoft has clearly taken a strong look at usability. Office now has something called "Paste Preview" which, as the name states, shows the user what the document would look like with the newly pasted item. It came about because Microsoft noticed that the feature most used after paste is undo.

As a collaboration platform, SharePoint 2010 has been upgraded to provide more robust enterprise deployments. Site editing has been made easier. Data can be tagged and aggregated. A new set of community features allows users to share data as they do on Twitter and Facebook. And the software features better integration both with the company's Fast search engine as well as PerformancePoint, which is Microsoft's business intelligence software.

Elop noted that 8.6 million people have already tried the Office 2010 beta versions, which is more than three times the number of users who tried the Office 2007 beta. The company expects that Office 2010 will eventually have over 90 million business customers.

One aspect in the presentation that wasn't discussed in detail, however, was discussion of putting Office online, as a hosted service. That will happen later this year. The company plans to offer virtually all the features of the products as a cloud offering.

At least one company, namely Google, has been making the most with Microsoft's seeming tardiness in providing Microsoft Office applications as a cloud offering.

In the days leading up to Wednesday's launch, Google executives have been talking extensively with the press about its online office offering, Google Docs, as well as how Microsoft is behind Google in terms of offering office productivity functionality in the cloud.

Even if Google's online offerings do not have the richness of features of Office -- admitted Google product manager Jonathan Rochelle in an interview with IDG -- the advantage of using cloud-based software comes with its own benefits, such as faster updates, deeper integration and better collaboration.


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