On Thursday launched an early technical preview program for Microsoft Office Web Apps — lightweight versions of its Office suite of applications.

Participation is by invitation only, and the preview is initially available in English and Japanese. It will be available in additional languages later this fall.
As it did with Windows 7, Microsoft is seeking to tap the wisdom of the crowd for its move into Web-based apps. The early technical preview is designed to collect additional feedback before a public beta, Microsoft said.

“They’re being very cautious, they don’t want a misstep like they made with MSN, so they’re sticking a toe in the water first,” Laura DiDio, principal analyst at ITIC, told TechNewsWorld.

Tens of thousands of individuals, students, customers and partners have been invited to participate in the technical preview, said Michael Schultz, director of marketing for Microsoft Office Services.

The invitees are users of Windows Live SkyDrive, a free file storage and sharing service that lets users upload files to the Internet and access them from a Web browser. They will get access to the Word, Excel and PowerPoint Web Apps through Windows Live SkyDrive. Previewers will be able to work with these apps online.

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