Microsoft announced another update to its SkyDrive cloud storage service, and this one answers a major customer request: The Office Web Apps, which provide web-based versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote, no longer require you to sign-in with a Microsoft account to edit shared documents.

Additionally, Microsoft revealed a new milestone: Customers are now storing over one billion Office documents on SkyDrive.

“We’re really excited about the feedback we’ve seen around the new version of Office and the deep integration of SkyDrive,” Microsoft’s Omar Shahine wrote in a post to the Inside SkyDrive blog. “We’re taking it a step further today by announcing a new feature in SkyDrive and the Office Web Apps that allows a more seamless sharing and editing experience for our customers.”

As you may know, you can easily share SkyDrive-hosted documents with others, either from the SkyDrive web interface or, starting with Office 2013, by using the new Get a Sharing Link feature in Office applications.

I use this functionality when I post Xbox Music Book updates. (I’ll be posting one today, in fact.) In the case of my book update links, however, I actually export the document as a PDF first and then make that available for viewing online or downloading. But many people wish to share live Office documents with others. When you do this, you can choose between a read-only “view link” and an “edit link,” which lets recipients edit the document in the browser (or via their own Office applications) as well, and do so simultaneously with other people.

This is obviously a pretty powerful collaboration feature. But to date, in order to edit a SkyDrive-hosted Office document, the recipient(s) needed to have a Microsoft account.

No more: According to Microsoft, many customers, especially students, told the firm that requiring people to sign in or sign up for a Microsoft account just to make a quick edit to a document was frustrating. So recipients of edit links no longer need a Microsoft account.

“With edit links, all people who receive your link will be able to edit the document,” Shahine writes. “If you'd like more control over exactly who can access your document, we recommend inviting specific people via their email addresses and checking the ‘Require user to sign-in’ check box.”

Good stuff.