The early takes on Microsoft Office 2010 on the desktop look good. The Fluent interface is getting some nice refinements and Microsoft is punching up PowerPoint by nodding to some of the features available in Apple’s Keynote. On the desktop, Office looks like a nice upgrade (though whether the refinements will be enough to justify the as-yet-unpublished upgrade costs is another matter). But the reality is web apps are where the action is.
Microsoft’s Office 2010 on the web sounds good at first blush: A web-based productivity solution like Google Docs or Zoho, but with the advantages of using Office’s familiar interface and some assurance that Office-formatted documents will read and write correctly whether edited in the cloud or on the desktop. However, anyone who thinks that, by moving to a web-based solution, Microsoft is truly offering a “free” version of Office is going to disappointed.
The first disappointment is that, despite the word “free” being bandied about a lot, Office 2010 web is not free for corporate users. The free version is for consumers (using their Hotmail/Windows Live account). Enterprise customers can use the Office web apps via corporate access licenses (CALs) for the suite. In other words, Microsoft is saying that for the enterprise the web apps are only a supplement to their productivity needs, not a solution in and of themselves. This could be a major stumbling block for the small- and medium-sized businesses that might have been considering Office’s web apps over competitors like Google Docs or Zoho.