Microsoft has launched a new online version of its flagship Office software

Microsoft Office 365 will challenge Google Drive

A new online version of Microsoft Office will rival cloud storage systems such as Google Drive.

Today saw the UK launch of the software giant’s new Office 365 Home Premium, allowing users to access Word, Excel, PowerPoint, One Note and other apps on up to five tablets, mobiles, Macs or PCs for £79.99 a year.

The new version, featuring constantly updated online access to documents, is aimed at home users rather than businesses and is designed to beat back growing competition from Google Inc's free online apps, though big companies got the latest features of the new Office back in December.

"The notion of an always up-to-date streaming version of Office comes directly from how people are using devices today," said Kurt DelBene, head of Microsoft's Office unit. "You really want all your content to roam with you. We see that as an opportunity to deliver what customers are asking for."

This is the first major overhaul of Office since 2010 and the launch came on the heels of a survey released by the technology giant showed 44% of 2,000 respondents thought mobile technology had improved their working lives and 46% thought it gave them more time to do what they enjoyed.

Despite free offerings from other providers such as Google Microsoft's Abigail Rappoport said the extra £6.67 a month is worth it.

"This is online as well as off the web - that is an important distinction," said the Microsoft Office UK division director speaking at the UK launch.

"You could be somewhere which has no wi-fi connection and you still need to work - this allows you to do that."

Ms Rappoport added that Office had been popular in the past due to its "rich functionality", compared with the "plain" and "simple" Google Drive.

"You want something that is rich and impactful," she said. "You don't get that with Google Drive - it is very plain and it is simple."

Customers in the US got a first look at the software a day earlier and initial reactions were positive at Microsoft's flagship Seattle store.

"It looks badass. And that whole touch-screen thing now," said Kouichi Armga, 25, after seeing the new Office run on touch-screen hardware.

"It was actually very impressive," said Jeremy Payne, 26, from Olympia, Washington. "The biggest thing was the new PowerPoint. I was really excited to see the new PowerPoint."

But Payne, an avowed Apple Inc enthusiast, said it  might be hard to drag Mac users away from their Apple-centered world.

"They have their work cut out for them pulling people from Apple," he said. "The Apple system is so integrated to my way of thought."

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