A preview of Office Web Application demos

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Beware, we’ve seen a live OWA demo and it has the usual Microsoft fudging.

If the demo of Microsoft Office Web Applications (OWA) that we’ve seen is any guide, the audience will have to be very careful to pick truth as it edges into lies.

A favorite trick in the OWA demos will be to start with a standard Powerpoint slide show then offer to show the audience Office running on the web – ta da! – the big reveal is that the slides you’ve been viewing have been OWA all along. It’s a Powerpoint presentation running off a web browser.

The key missing point is that the presentation was almost certainly not created using OWA – only displayed from there.

That brings us to another key phrase used by Microsoft staff in the presentation. This phrase is part of the script and very carefully worded. When talking about Office Web Applications compared to the Office software suite, OWA is said to offer:

Full fidelity and editing experience.”

There’s two ways to take that sentence, which is why it’s so carefully worded.

It could mean “Full fidelity and full editing experience” – in other words the browser version has all the features of the software to both display and edit documents. That’s what Microsoft hopes you’ll assume.

In fact it means “Full fidelity plus some editing features” – OWA can display documents as they appear on your computer (though that remains to be proved) and the browser based Office has a limited subset of the Office software features.

Microsoft doesn’t explicitly try to say that OWA has all the features of Office software – that would be a transparent lie. But it does come perilously close to implying just that.

No ’round trip’ issues

Microsoft is proudly boasting that Office Web Applications has no ’round trip’ issues. This is important because OWA doesn’t have all the features of Office software so there’s the risk that OWA could remove part of your document because it contains something the browser code doesn’t understand.

Here the Microsoft presenters tie themselves in a knot and it’s funny to watch as they try to describe this in practice without mentioning any of the Office software features not available in OWA.

The Redmond ‘Kool-Aid drinkers’ don’t want to talk about differences between Office software and the browser version and will do almost anything to avoid it. We wonder why that’s the case, but more on that later.

Silverlight = good, Javascript = Bad

Office Web Applications is done with a combination of technologies, most importantly Silverlight and Javascript.

Silverlight is a Microsoft created system, often called an attempt to replace Adobe Flash.

Javascript is NOT from Microsoft and is supported in most browsers. It’s the key to most advanced web sites sites such as Google Documents.

Because Silverlight is from Microsoft it is deemed good, excellent and flawless by presenters. Javascript, not a Redmond creation, can be used to explain any limitations in Office Web Applications.

When displaying Office documents in OWA, we’re told that this magic is possible because of Silverlight from Microsoft.

Any omissions or problems in OWA are dismissed as limitations in Javascript. Because Javascript didn’t come from Microsoft, the implication is that it’s not Redmond’s fault.


Our comments are based on an OWA demonstration we’ve seen given by Microsoft staff plus reports of similar presentations.  We’ve not identified the specific speakers or locations because we don’t want individuals at Microsoft to be blamed or ‘scape-goated’for what are corporate decisions.

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