Readers of ZDNet Education will know that I’ve been using Google Apps for some time and recently migrated my school district to Google Apps for Education (affectionately known as GAPE or Edu Apps, essentially their Premium Apps offering provided to educational institutions for free). The technology, particularly Gmail, has been remarkably well-received by staff and students, but acceptance of Google’s cloud-based word processing, spreadsheet, and presentation software has been hampered among a sizable chunk of users by the perception that they need Microsoft Office on their desktops (no matter how small a fraction of its functionality they use).
That being said, for those of us who have no such biases (and the group is growing, especially among students and new teachers in the district), Google Apps begs for collaboration and a model of computing where it really doesn’t matter if we lose our USB stick, are sitting in an Internet cafe, are at home, or are at any terminal at work. We can still access everything we need. The cloud, naysayers be damned, is our friend.
So can cloud applications from Microsoft, the very folks who convinced all of those naysayers that they really need to have Microsoft Office installed on their computers, also be our friends? When a Microsoft Ed Tech rep reached out to me and offered me access to their Office Web Apps Technical Preview, I jumped at the chance to take them head-to-head. A Google vs. Microsoft prize fight! While Microsoft’s Web Apps are very much in beta and Google’s are relatively mature, production products, an apples-to-apples comparison isn’t out of the question. I’ll point out spots where the beta nature of Microsoft’s applications show through, but this should give those without access to both products a good comparison of their respective features and benefits.
This picture from 2005 suggests that they've made a lot of progress