There hasn’t been a shortage of announcements this year at PDC. The next big one besides Windows 7 is the new "Office Web Applications" live services. The Office team will be delivering the five most popular Office applications as light weight browser based versions that include Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote.
Folks at PDC got a sneak peak at a demo and screenshots, see below:
So what does this mean for architects? Is this just consumer black box services? I don’t think so. The Office team is trying to move away from the Software as a Service (SaaS) model and focus on solutions that expose rich integration capabilities with not only the browser environment but what ever form factor is appropriate for a specific scenario. This is the software plus services (S+S) theme that has been delivered all through PDC with Azure, Windows 7 and now Office.
Existing solutions in the web based productivity space such as Google Docs and Zoho offer a very limitted and black box solution. It makes it tough to have rich collaboration as you can see below in the interview with Antoine Leblond, Senior VP of Office Productivity Apps and Chris Bryant of General Program Manager.
I haven’t gotten completely briefed on the architecture of the solution but what I do know is that the technologies that enable Office Web is a mixture of Silverlight, AJAX and HTML. It is great to see a mixture of technologies used for this implementation because there is a variety of web technologies that are right for particular aspects of the architecture.
From a browser perspective it looks like Office Web will also be compatible with IE8, Firefox (used in the interview above) and Safari.
One could imagine the possibilities here and what it could mean for customers that have built Office Business Applications (OBA). The story get much richer now that you can introduce the cloud into the mix. It is still too early to tell how much of the API will be available but more details are forth coming.
Office Web Applications will be released to a limited set of partners and customers at the end of this year. The release date will closely align with Office 14 and Windows 7 which will be sometime in late 2009 or early 2010.