I go away on holiday, and suddenly tons of things get announced. Hurrah. I should holiday more!
Alongside all of the Windows announcements (the first public view of Windows 7 and the new cloud-computing platform, Windows Azure), we also previewed the Office Web Applications which will be included within the release of the next version of Office in early 2010.
For schools, this seems an important development, as it will mean that you will be able to have complete transportability of documents and work (with complete fidelity*) between home and school, regardless of whether your students have Office at home or not, or have an older or more recent version than you use in school.
I don’t think that moving to web-based Office applications is the right thing for everybody, in all circumstances, because a lot of what students (and teachers) do today involves a rich mix of media and data, and it would be wrong to assume that everybody is online all of the time. But it provides another element of flexibility. It’s still a year away, but the Beta will be available sooner, and we’ll all get the chance to play with it and see what it can do.
* With complete fidelity: This is something that I think is quite important to students & teachers. If I create a document where the pictures all line up, and it looks perfect, I don’t want to transfer it to another piece of software which makes it look different. Sometimes (but decreasingly) I get that experience moving between Office 2003 & Office 2007, but I have seen some wild changes moving between different applications which use .odt, simply because there doesn’t appear to be a standard way to implement an open standard! What the team demonstrate on the video above is that one of their clear focus areas it to ensure that when you move from the Office suite to the web suite, and back, it retains all of the information, and all of the formatting is consistent.