Microsoft finally caught up with Google Docs’ real-time editing back in 2013, but the company is one-upping Google today. Office 2016, the next major version of Microsoft’s desktop suite of apps, will include real-time co-authoring for Word documents. While Microsoft and Google both support co-authoring on the web, this extends the same collaboration feature to the desktop apps in Office 2016. Microsoft has confirmed to The Verge that it will enable the feature in Word first, and then PowerPoint and Excel in the future.
A big advantage over Google Docs
It’s a big change to Microsoft’s Office suite, and it gives the company a distinct advantage over competitors like Google. Thousands of businesses still rely on Microsoft Office and the desktop versions of the apps, as the web alternatives just aren't as powerful. Co-authoring on the desktop removes one of the key benefits of using the web versions of Google Docs or Office. Google Docs rose in popularity thanks to its co-authoring feature and the fact it’s a free, albeit simple, alternative to Office. While Google acquired QuickOffice almost three years ago, it hasn’t really launched apps that compete well with Office on iOS, Android, and even desktop operating systems like Windows or OS X.
Microsoft is letting the public download a preview of Office 2016 today, but the real-time editing feature isn’t available just yet. Office 2016 will be available in its final form later this year, and real-time editing is expected to enter preview by early summer. Long-term, Microsoft is also looking into enabling the same co-authoring in the Android and iOS versions of Office, so one day iPad owners could be editing the same document that a colleague is using on the web or in the desktop version of Office 2016.