I'm not sure what all the hubbub was about regarding the Office Web Applications, but if you were expecting to access web-based versions of Microsoft Office today, you're reading the wrong blogs. Find out what's really happening in my Office 2010 Special Report.
Microsoft announced the Office Web Applications in October 2008 at the Professional Developers Conference (PDC) and said that it would ship a beta version of the tools by the end of 2008. That never happened and, contrary to widespread public reports (guesses, as it turns out), the company won't be releasing the beta this week either. Instead, I was told that a beta of the Office Web Applications won't happen until later this year.
Office Web Applications consists of stripped-down, web-based versions of Word, Excel, OneNote, and PowerPoint. Microsoft sees this technology as key to the future of Office, and the company's expectation is that we will lose the distinction between the PC desktop and web-based versions eventually. Seeing the difference won't be all that hard in the first generation version, however, but most of the work being done now is to ensure that the web applications preserve the fidelity of documents moved between the web, the PC apps, and the Windows Mobile-based mobile apps.
The Office Web Applications will be made available in three different ways. Individuals will be able to access them for free via Windows Live. (And not Office Live, which is being discontinued and rolled into Windows Live.) Corporations will be able to host the Office Web Applications on-site. And those who sign up for Microsoft Online Services (MOS) will be able to access a hosted version of Office Web Applications as part of their subscription.
I'll have more information about Office Web Applications as soon as I get my hands on the beta. But here's one fun tidbit: They will work equally well in IE, Firefox, and Safari.