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Microsoft concedes Chromebooks are work-worthy

Gregg Keizer | April 16, 2014
Offers Office Online apps via Chrome Web Store to Chrome and Chrome OS.

Office Online image
Word Online and OneNote Online require a live Internet connection, symbolized here by being grayed out when Chrome is offline. Only 'packaged apps,' like Google Drive and WeatherBug, shown here in full color, can run without a live link in Chrome or on Chrome OS.

Because the applications and apps in the consumer-grade Office 365 plans automatically save documents to Microsoft's OneDrive, the same online storage service where Office Online files are stored, documents, spreadsheets and presentations created on, say, a Windows 7 PC can be viewed and edited on a Chrome OS laptop or within the Chrome browser on a Mac.

If nothing else, that puts Chrome and Chrome OS within Microsoft's Office "reach," and ties Chrome OS into Office 365, just as the service has absorbed Macs, iPads, iPhones and Android devices.

The Office Online apps in the Chrome Web Store are what Google calls "hosted apps," meaning that they're essentially tweaked Web apps, or software that runs within the framework of a browser.

As hosted apps, Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote require a live Internet connection to function within Chrome or run on a Chromebook.

The Chrome Web Store also contains more sophisticated apps, dubbed "packaged apps," ueber-Web apps that are much closer to "native" software -- the kind written for a specific operating system, say Windows and its desktop -- that can run minus an Internet connection and call on several Google APIs (application programming interfaces) and services barred to hosted Web apps.

Microsoft has not taken that step yet. But it could, and thus turn Office Online into something better described as "Office Offline." If it did produce offline-capable versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote for Chromebooks, Microsoft would have something analogous to the written-specifically-for-the-iPad apps released last month, and cover Chrome OS in the same way it does Apple's tablet, the iPhone and Android smartphones.

Microsoft would not, by its past practices anyway, give away those apps, but would instead, as it has the iPad apps, link their operation to an Office 365 subscription.

Word Online, PowerPoint Online and OneNote Online can be installed on Chrome OS and within Chrome from the Chrome Web Store.

However, Computerworld encountered a conflict between Word and PowerPoint that blocked the installation of the latter within Chrome when the former was already present. Others had reported the same problem in comments appended to Microsoft's blogged announcement.

 

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