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Warp Pipe: Office 365 heads for the clouds

Microsoft has launched the beta version of Office 365, a much-anticipated cloud-based productivity suite that mixes the tools of Microsoft Office with the power of social networking.

Unlike the Microsoft Office we've all used, Office 365 is Web-based and stores documents in a "cloud." Users from anywhere in the world with an Internet connection can collaborate seamlessly on the same project. Co-workers can simultaneously edit Excel spreadsheets, Word and PowerPoint presentations in real time, and see exactly who is editing and viewing the documents.

Office 365 also provides users with email, shared calendars, a virus scanner, instant messaging and a tool that makes sending large files easy. Users can share their desktops remotely for presentations and launch online meetings with audio and video.

Microsoft says Office 365 will work with PCs, Macs, iPhones, Android phones, BlackBerry phones, Windows Mobile and Windows Phones. The company also said it will be launching the Office 365 Marketplace, with an additional 100 productivity apps and 400 professional services.

But the drawback is obvious: No Internet connection, no access to your stuff. So if you're traveling and you don't have a smartphone and/or laptop with a mobile data plan, or if the Internet connection dies, you won't be able to access or work on the shared document.

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