Today, Microsoft officially opened the technical preview program for the much anticipated Office Web Apps to a limited number of invitation-only participants. We have a few schools in this private preview who will be testing Excel, PowerPoint and Word Web Apps through Windows Live SkyDrive (OneNote coming soon). Take a look at the new screen shots on the right. The rest of us will be able to get a sneak peak when the Office 2010 beta is released later this year…you can sign up here for early notification of when it's coming so you can try it out.

I’m really excited about the potential Office Web Apps have for education. We’ve seen schools, and students in particular, embrace a wide variety of collaborative and online environments to do work in an ad-hoc fashion and move beyond the classroom and even their PC as a core computing device. Office Web Apps will allow students to collaborate in real-time across a wide variety of experience types, whether it’s editing assignments in Word at a library computer or the ability to embrace a much more collaborative approach to sharing projects with teammates. Doing work anytime, anyplace without the restriction of the PC they’re using or the software that’s loaded on it will be a tremendous opportunity. With Office Web Apps, you can view, create, edit and share documents anyplace, on any device (phone, PC, MAC) and across popular browsers (Internet Explorer, Safari, and Firefox).

Office Webs Apps will be a great companion to Office, so students can take the documents they’ve worked on and open them up for feedback and collaboration with others whether or not they have Office software on their machines…and a student won’t have to worry about whether their friend has the same version of Office either. This will open up the world of computing across campus and across different learning modalities which certainly opens up collaboration opportunities.

I think Web Apps are great examples of Microsoft’s commitment to not only create new experiences that connect to the needs our educators and students and what they are asking for, but our commitment to software plus services.

I’m excited to show you more about the features and functionality of the Web Apps in the coming year and how they will play with Live@edu, but in the meantime, learn more about them in the Windows Live and Office 2010 Engineering blog posts, as well as this new demo video and fact sheet.