Regular readers of this blog know that I don't believe that Google Apps is a viable alternative to Microsoft's Office.
While Microsoft is not releasing a completely online version of its Office on Tuesday, it is releasing Office Live Workspace, an online-collaboration tool for Office that works in cooperation with the desktop application suite.
Workspace enables users to view documents online, even if their computer doesn't have Office installed. However, if they want to make edits, they have to download it and make changes in the appropriate Office application.
For users who have Office installed on their PC, this is not as bad as you would think. It may be a little bit annoying, but the benefit is that they get to work on these documents and collaborate within the fully functional desktop application. The online application will track revisions and comments made on the document.
Microsoft has also made a plug-in available for Office that makes accessing a workspace a bit smoother. It also enables users to edit things such as notes, lists, calendars, tasks, and contacts in the Web application.
A lot of Web 2.0 purists are going to be very quick to dismiss the notion that Office Live Workspace is a legitimate Web application, simply because of its dependence on the desktop version of Office. I would have to disagree with those people.
While it may not be completely Web-based, Workspace offers a lot of value for collaboration on group projects, and it is not limited by online versions of the Office applications. People get to work in an environment that is familiar to them and do not sacrifice any functionality in exchange for collaboration.
Until someone can build a full-feature online-productivity suite, this is certainly a viable option.