Just 24 hours after launching OneDrive as a replacement for SkyDrive, Microsoft has announced a major rebranding of its cloud-based productivity tools line up. Say hello to Office Online, Microsoft’s reinvented Office Web Apps, which has been redesigned so its easier to find, and comes with a bunch of new features to boot.
The biggest change is probably also the smartest one, for Office Online is now much easier to find. Whereas before, Office Web Apps could only be accessed via SkyDrive, Office Online is directly available at Office.com. It’s a logical address that’s much easier to remember, and therefore makes it much easier for people to find. Even better is it’s not only Office that’s available there, but also a bunch of other Microsoft services and tools like Excel Online, PowerPoint Online, Outlook.com, Calender, People and OneDrive. This is a smart strategy from Microsoft, putting more of its consumer-facing cloud services in one place, especially when its combined with a nicely streamlined design.
Office Web Apps was ‘confused’
In a blog post unveiling Office Online, Microsoft admits that it got things wrong with the old Web Apps.
“We heard from customers that the inclusion of Apps in our name was confusing,” wrote Microsoft’s Amanda Lefebvre. “Are they something I install? Do I go to an app store to get them? No, to use them all you need is a web browser. Ah! You say. So it’s like Office, online. Yes, exactly. Office Online.”
“Secondly, a lot of you don’t know that we have an online version of Office because you just couldn’t find it”, Lefebvre admitted.
That’s also true. Even a geek like myself didn’t know about it for years afterwards, due to the way it was tightly integrated with SkyDrive – something that I personally, and many others, never use.
So what’s new?
So now we can actually find it, what’s to discover in the new Office Online. Well, just like the full-fledged Office that’s available on our PCs, we’re able to access “hundreds” of templates for Word, Excel and PowerPoint. As well as this, there’s resumes, budgets and all kinds of useful bits and pieces that weren’t available with Web Apps before.
There’s also a tab at the top of the page that provides fast access to Word, Excel and PowerPoint, plus Outlook.com, which means its now simple to jump from your emails to whatever spreadsheet or document you were working on.
All of this is a step in the right direction for Microsoft, and might just help it to win back those customers who’ve ditched Office for Google Docs, particularly workers who need to collaborate. After all, it has a crucial advantage in that most people still use Office, and Google’s tools have never been fully compatible. Now that people can find ‘Office’ online much more easily, it’s not hard to see people giving it a go.
All we need now is for Microsoft to go the whole hog and really beef up Office Online with some of the more complicated features currently available in its full-fledged PC offering, and it’s safe to say that those who find it will never look back.