“Office Web Apps” provides end users with the capability to view and edit Office documents using a browser interface. The new avatar of the Office Web Apps Server product available with SharePoint 2013 is more loosely coupled with SharePoint as compared to the earlier model of Office Web Apps, which had a much tighter integration with SharePoint 2010. Office Web Apps has now been made a standalone product. The new deployment model of Office Web Apps Server achieves isolation levels that aid in simplifying the deployment/maintenance of SharePoint 2013 since updates/patches can be applied to SharePoint 2013 or Office Web Apps independently. Scalability requirements can also be addressed individually now that Office Web Apps servers are deployed separately.

Improved touch support and general support exists across a broader array of device platforms (i.e., Windows, iOS, Android, etc.) in the new Office Web Apps server product. Document editing capabilities, however, are still limited for the most part to the Windows-based devices.

Our Take: While it is certainly advantageous to have a fine-grained isolation model between SharePoint 2013 and Office Web Apps, the downside is that more hardware is required overall to deploy Office Web Apps, as Microsoft does not recommend co-hosting Office Web Apps Server on the same server as SharePoint 2013. So overall, it does look like the hardware footprint could potentially increase with the new deployment model
of SharePoint 2013. There are new features added to Office Web Apps that are quite useful, such as change tracking and comments, which were not present in the
earlier version.

The support for multiple browser platforms and mobile devices is definitely better than before, but for the fullest/best user experience one still needs a windows based device and an IE browser. The MS documentation of the devices and supported feature matrix is also not fully complete at this point and will hopefully be updated in the near future.

Stay tuned as we release more of this 11-part series from our whitepaper on SharePoint 2013′s newest features right here on our blog for your reading pleasure. But, why wait? You can download the whitepaper in its entirety now.

Let us know your comments, questions and conerns as you read through the document.

Microsoft SharePoint 2013: An Overview