Microsoft's Free Office Online Details Emerge

By Pedro Hernandez

Like SkyDrive (soon to be OneDrive), Microsoft's Office Web Apps appear to be headed toward a rebranding of their own.

A page on the company's Website displayed the planned Office Online packages, including a free version that offers 7GB of storage and cloud-delivered versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote. ZDNet's Mary Jo Foley posted a screenshot of the product matrix before Microsoft pulled the page.

To date, Office Web Apps took a backseat to SkyDrive, noted Foley. Office Online will flip things around. "Up until now, Microsoft has touted Office Web Apps more as a feature of SkyDrive, its cloud-storage offering soon to be rebranded OneDrive, and/or as an Office 365 feature," stated Foley.

Microsoft announced on Jan. 27 that the company is renaming its SkyDrive cloud storage platform to OneDrive. The move follows a court defeat last summer in the U.K. Justice Sarah Asplin of the England and Wales High Court ruled on July 28 that SkyDrive infringed on trademarks held by the British Sky Broadcasting Group (BSkyB).

The companies reached an agreement, the terms of which were undisclosed, that would allow Microsoft to use the SkyDrive brand. In a press statement, the companies announced that "Sky will allow Microsoft to continue using the SkyDrive name for a reasonable period of time to allow for an orderly transition to a new brand."

That transition appears to be nearly complete, and its effects are rippling across Microsoft's cloud software portfolio. Mention of SkyDrive or OneDrive is noticeably absent from the since-removed product chart. They are referred to as simply "online storage."

Referencing the same chart, Foley wrote that "it's clear Microsoft is going to try to make Office Online more discoverable and understandable by the general public." The rebranding effort may coincide with the company's next major Office upgrade.

"It also seems that Microsoft considers this Office Online rebranding part of Microsoft's next Office wave (codenamed Office 16), given that 'O16' is part of the URL path for the new compare site," added Foley.

Meanwhile, some of the upcoming OneDrive features that the company teased during the rebranding announcement are coming into sharper focus. LiveSide, a Microsoft news site, obtained new screenshots that show the new "co-owned folder" functionality.

In his report, John Hsu explained, "If someone adds you as a co-owner to a folder on their OneDrive, not only can you view or edit files in that folder, but it will appear as one of your own folders.

"Consequently, you will be able to sync these shared files and folders onto your own PC, and be able to invite others to access the folder as well," he added. The feature also addresses one of the SkyDrive desktop client's most glaring shortcomings, its inability to sync shared folders for offline storage. Hsu expects the co-owned folders feature to launch alongside the new OneDrive.com when it goes live.

This article was originally published on 2014-02-12