Microsoft releases free Office web apps

Microsoft’s Office Web Apps on SkyDrive service is out of beta and available in the US, UK, Canada and Ireland.

Following the success of its free Google Docs word-processing, speadsheet and slideshow applications, itthe company is releasing free web-based versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote.

Users can sign up here to access the service. While there are only certain language versions available right now, it’s accessible anywhere.

Users can upload documents – in batches, if they’re Silverlight users – and view, edit and share them from within their web browser.

There’s also access to Messenger without needing to install it on the PC, and the company’s promising web access to Hotmail’s new Office features soon.

“We’ll have more to share next week when Office 2010 is released to consumers, including how Office 2010 + SkyDrive + Office Web Apps give you the best productivity experience across the PC, phone, and browser,” promises Jason Moore, principal lead program manager for Windows Live SkyDrive.

Browsers supported include Internet Explorer 7 and above, Chrome on Windows and Mac, Firefox 3.5+ on Windows, Mac, and Linux, or Safari 4+ on Mac. The features are also avai’able on ‘most smartphones’, says Microsoft, with supported browsers including IE on Windows Mobile, Safari 4, BlackBerry, Nokia S60 browser, NetFront, Opera Mobile and Openwave.