I have zero interest in Microsoft Office 2010, the PC product. The last Office I bought was 2003, and I don’t need more: done installing and forever updating bloatware on several computers just to keep productive.
Yet I am watching the Office 2010 related news this morning, for what it means to Web-based computing. The official announcement was supposed to come today at the Microsoft Worldwide Partners Conference 2009 in New Orleans, but early versions of some videos leaked out, then got pulled, came back again… a bit of a cat-and-mouse game. Botched launch or new tactic?
The big news is that Office 2010 will come with web-based companion apps, which will also be available via Microsoft Live. They will be free, but we don’t know if they will come with ads or not.
The actual client software is already at the technical review stage (limited beta), while even testers will have to wait for the Web Components until later this year.
The ability to collaborate online and have a set of Web apps that integrate tightly and sync well with their offline version is clearly a huge deal and no doubt will be attractive to Microsoft’s existing user base. I wonder what it means for the growing Web-office market.
Is this a Goole and Zoho killer? “Nothing fights free like free” – says Download Squad. Well, the big question is to what extend the Web components satisfy user needs on their own, without the client software. If we can believe TechCrunch, there may be serious limitations:
Microsoft has also updated the desktop version to have collaborative features so that multiple users can be editing a document at once. This collaboration is not available in the web version, unfortunately. Microsoft says that users don’t want this feature but this might be a move to protect the Office revenue model.
InformationWeek interviewed Chris Capossela, senior VP for Microsoft’s Business:
Capossela said he doesn’t believe Office Web will cannibalize the desktop version of Office, sales of which to consumers were down 30 percent in Microsoft’s most recent quarter. “We haven’t taken the approach where the Web apps are a duplication of the client apps,” said Capossela. “We try to make them incredibly good for the device you are using,” he added.
One has to wonder to what extent this is the first step to “liberating” users… the more they use web apps, the more they will learn that they may just live without an installed app at all. And once users break out of the Office-prison mentality, nothing stops them from using whatever they are comfortable with, that fully meets their needs.
The Genie is out of the bottle, and it’s not going back…
Update: here’s a good summary of MS Office on the Web: What it Is and What it Isn’t