First off, in case you haven’t registered for any of the upcoming TechNet Firestarter events that cover SharePoint 2010 including the Office Web Apps feature set, like the New York event where registration is near capacity already, I’d hurry up and register here if you haven’t already.  Information on all of the upcoming TechNet events can be found at the www.technetevents.com website.  These events spend the entire day on SharePoint 2010 including a product overview, a deep dive on how to upgrade from Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007, Understanding Office Web Apps, as well as virtualization and maintenance of SharePoint 2010. Register now for one of these valuable sessions.

My second session (the 3rd session overall and the first session after lunch actually) focuses on Office Web Apps running on SharePoint 2010 as well as some of the Office Web Apps functionality that’s present on Skydrive or in Hotmail.  The Office Web Apps feature set has generated a significant amount of attention from IT Pro’s as it’s the first time Microsoft has offered web-based counterparts to the well known Office system.  Currently available in two forms (on-premise with SharePoint 2010, plus Skydrive and/or Hotmail) and coming soon from Microsoft Online, Office Web Apps offers web-based versions of Word, PowerPoint, Excel and OneNote in a web-only format.  These applications are intended to be web-based companions to the full Office 2010 suite that is typically installed locally on a user’s PC and offers many, but not all of the features of their Office 2010 cousins, but without the need to deploy software locally.  Document creation, viewing, editing, and sharing are the primary features that the Office Web Apps suite can tackle, and best of all, they do so in full Office document fidelity without the need to upload and/or convert the documents into standard Office document formats.  This feature set also works across all the major browsers including the latest versions of Internet Explorer, Firefox and Safari.

So why two and soon three places for Office Web Apps you ask?  Well, a number of reasons actually, but I guess the answer can be summed up in a one word answer – choice.  Office Web Apps on Hotmail and Skydrive are Microsoft’s consumer-based offering where all you need is a Windows Live ID and a free account on either of those services to have access to Office Web Apps.  This service was rolled out to all of the ~500 million Hotmail Users earlier this year and this feature set shows up subtly on the Hotmail toolbar across the top, see the experience below:  image

So to create a new document using Office Web Apps, all you need to do is click “Office” on the toolbar across the top and you are offered a number of options around retrieving or creating Office documents.

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So what’s the experience like on SharePoint 2010, currently the second place you can consume Office Web Apps?  Well, the experience is pretty similar, actually, and runs the same code, just on your local premises on top of your SharePoint 2010 farm.  In case you haven’t seen it, the familiar Office Ribbon has been extended to SharePoint 2010 where both users and administrators benefit from this easy-to-use and contextual interface. 

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When looking to use Office Web Apps on SharePoint, this is a feature set that first must be installed and subsequently enabled (depending on your configuration) on the SharePoint 2010 farm where you’re looking to use them.  The bits for what’s referred to as “Web Application Components” need to be obtained through a Volume Licensing Agreement along with a license key and installed on top of either SharePoint 2010 or SharePoint 2010 Foundation.  Once installed, the options for interacting with your documents on the document library of your SharePoint 2010 server change a bit.  See the options and images below.

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Clicking either the “View in Browser” or “Edit in Browser” option launches Office Web Apps off of your local SharePoint 2010 farm.  In this case, I’ve chosen to Edit in Browser which launches the below interface.

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You see the familiar Office Ribbon, but now in web format.  From this image you can see many of the features available in Microsoft Word Web App and you would see the same exact functionality and interface had you chosen to open a document from either Hotmail or off of your Skydrive account.

So the 3rd option for running Office Web Apps in the near future is going to be from the Microsoft Online offering where Microsoft is hosting SharePoint 2010 for your business.  This offering is expected to be announced later this year, so stay tuned for that.