When Office 365 rolled out just a couple weeks ago, one of most obvious ways it was lacking in comparison to the rival Google Docs apps was that there was no way to collaborate in real-time on Word documents using the Word Web App. Well, as of today that is no longer an issue--Microsoft has added a co-authoring capability to the Word Web App.
I did a head-to-head comparison of Office 365 vs. Google Docs when Office 365 hit the street. In the area of real-time collaboration, I gave Microsoft a slight edge in large part due to the combination of Lync functionality and the ability to engage others in audio / video conferencing, and online whiteboard sessions with ease. But, Google Docs had Office 365 beat on the ability to just collaborate on a document natively from within the app.
A Microsoft Office Web Apps blog post announces, "Building on the collaboration features already available in Word 2010 and Word for Mac 2011, co-authoring in the Word Web App on SkyDrive helps you collaborate with others on polished content without having to leave your web browser. Just sign into SkyDrive and you're ready to get started!"
Microsoft takes a different approach than Google, which is why Microsoft calls it co-authoring rather than real-time collaboration. Google shows every character typed or mis-typed as the keys are pressed. Microsoft believes that users don't want their own thoughts spilled out in real-time before they can form complete sentences, and that others working on the document don't want to distracted by a jumble of characters until the thought is complete.
The Microsoft blog post explains, "When you're co-authoring, you always have a real time view into who is making changes and where these changes are occurring. As soon as you begin typing, the corresponding section of the document is locked and others are notified, placing you in control and freeing others from distraction. Contributors can hit "save" at any time to see an updated view of all changes."
Just share out a document from the SkyDrive and you, and anyone the file is shared with can work on it simultaneously. Alerts on screen will let you know when other users access the file, or leave the Word Web App. There is also a message that will notify you when updates made by other are ready for viewing.
Go to the Office Web Apps site to check it out. Let me know what you think about it. Do you prefer it to Google Docs? What do you think of the Microsoft approach to co-authoring vs. the real-time collaboration in Google?