The New Office Online Is More than just Rebranding

Feb 26, 2014

As part of last week’s release of the new Office Online product brand rollout, Microsoft renamed its previously existing Office Web Apps to be: Excel Online, Word Online, PowerPoint Online, and OneNote Online. Most of the press is dismissing this as no more than yet another rebranding. But I disagree; I feel it goes well beyond that—it creates a full new Office suite directed at consumers, one that is distinct from its business offerings in Office 365 and Office 2013.

How does it do all that?

First, along with the web apps listed above, Office Online also merges in Outlook.com and the People and Calendar functions that are on Live.com. And it merges OneDrive into the suite (OneDrive is the new name for the SkyDrive cloud-based file system).

Next, Microsoft has packaged the Office Online suite into its own launch pad at Office.com (shown above). And a horizontal version of the same launch pad of products appears in the upper left corner of each and every product (when you click the down arrow there, see below).

A New Consumer Office Suite

Again, what’s significant about this new packaging and collection of products is that Microsoft is now clearly presenting a complete consumer Office suite. It’s a suite that has nearly all the same modules as the business Office 365/ 2013 suite, but each at a lower level of feature complexity (and lower feature power). Its advantages are that Office Online is simpler, it’s free, it’s fully cloud-based, and it’s all linked together by OneDrive and Live.com. And, through the Microsoft Account, the suite locks users into the Microsoft ecosystem, which potentially leads users to more paid products.

Microsoft is positionaing Office Online as a collaboration environment (obviously competing with Google Docs). But I think more important than that Office Online is a good starter suite that fills the gaps left by the previous but discontinued “Office lite” products: Microsoft Works and Office 2010 Starter Edition. And compared to those, this new suite is better suited to the mixture of PC and mobile devices now in use.

Seems like a very smart move.

Michael Linenberger

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