MS Office in the Cloud, But Served Locally?

At a previous school, we used Microsoft Sharepoint for class pages for several years, but we could never get past the cross-platform loss of functionality.  If you were in IE, it was full featured.  If you were in Firefox or on a Mac, it was part featured.  Same with Office access to the online file repositories in Office vs. Mac Office.  And don’t get me started on Outlook vs. Entourage.

Anyway, time passes, and maybe Google Docs is putting pressure on MS.  The new Sharepoint 2010 that just came out promises to be more cross platform, and allow online doc access by both Windows and Mac Office.  We’ve already tested with the add-in for Mac Office, and it wasn’t bad for shared file access.

In fact, we wouldn’t mind changing all of our network home folders into Sharepoints for students, so they could have full access to their files over the web, cloud style.

Anyway, we’re building a test server for Sharepoint 2010 next week, and now the Microsoft Web Apps are beginning to come out.  I have a test account, and online Word and Onenote aren’t operational yet, but PowerPoint and Excel are via my free 25 gig Skydrive account.  I fired up a new Macbook, hit the site with Safari, and I was using PP and Excel relatively well in their stripped down, online version.  Files were saved either online in the cloud, or locally.

Here’s one interesting idea– if we are reading the Sharepoint 2010 and MS Web Apps site correctly, it may be possible to load MS Web Apps as a service that runs off your own Sharepoint 2010 server.  If that is correct, you could have an in-house server doing both Web Apps and Sharepoint, and running at the speed of your internal network for local use, independent of the MS servers.  Also, it could give you some independence from upgrades or changes, if you were managing your own cross platform web apps.  Also, it could be served off the same server as the personal home directors and shared file directories.

Interesting– we might be wrong about the implementation of local web apps, but we like the idea of having in-house control (and speed) of these types of services.  We also like the idea of not having Office on all machines (but having no Internet could mean no Office, so…).

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