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5/10/2010
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Microsoft Office 2010 Adds Features For Browsers, Smartphones

The latest version promises different features based on how people use it on the PC, in a browser, and on a smartphone.

Office 2010, which goes on sale to businesses this week, shows Microsoft for the first time putting serious sweat into making the suite work better on the Web and smartphones. Microsoft still pushes the feature-packed, client-based interface, but there are notable features focused on keeping Office relevant beyond the desktop screen.

Microsoft Sharepoint 2010 In Pictures
(click image to view gallery)
Microsoft Sharepoint 2010 In Pictures
For example, the browser-based versions of Word, Excel, and PowerPoint have "embed" tags to let a person embed a PowerPoint slide or Excel chart in a blog post. The PowerPoint would reside in a company's SharePoint system (for a company blog) or Microsoft's public SkyDrive (for a public blog), so when the content is updated, the embedded content in the blog stays up to date. The client versions don't have that.

On the mobile app, Office's OneNote digital notepad has a "take a photo" button to capture photos alongside notes out in the field. The client and browser versions don't have that. This reflects Microsoft's thinking that Office 2010 needs unique features based on the different screens a person might use. "We have taken an approach of 'What does productivity mean when you're in the browser?" as opposed to on the phone," says Chris Capossela, Microsoft senior VP of information worker products.

So why buy the client-based Office? For one thing, Microsoft is likely to charge the same license no matter if you use Office on the PC, browser, or phone. (It hasn't disclosed Web apps-only pricing for businesses yet.) Microsoft also touts high-end features that work only on a client, like editing rich video in PowerPoint. It expects most people will want to use all three interfaces, at different times for different purposes.

While Office 2010 brings different features to each interface, Microsoft also touts "fidelity" for Office documents. So while you need the rich-client Word to create watermarks, you don't lose them by looking at a document on a phone or browser. "That seamlessness is critical," says Stephen Elop, president of Microsoft business division.

But how many of us use watermarks? That's the knock on Office--it's feature-packed beyond what most people will ever use. There's one rich-client feature, however, that Microsoft thinks most everyone wants: offline access. For now, rival Google Docs doesn’t offer that. Microsoft is racing to exploit this advantage while it lasts.

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