Why Microsoft Office Web Is Good for Its Competitors

1Executive Summary

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 On the desktop, Office looks like a nice upgrade (though whether the refinements will be enough to justify the as-yet-unpublished upgrade costs is another matter).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.

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  1. Simon Mackie Monday, July 27, 2009

    Microsoft was always going to struggle with how to roll out a web version of Office that can effectively compete with the free Google Apps/Zoho without damaging the cash cow that is the desktop version – it would always have to be crippled somehow without the desktop suite.. I was quite pleased when I saw that it was to be offered for free to everyone with a Live account, but even though it’s not even available for testing yet, I’m pretty sure there Office Web will disappoint me. My hope is that Office Web gives Google a bit of a kick up the backside and gets them putting some effort into Google Apps again.

  2. Richard Hall Monday, July 27, 2009

    Most enteprise users will have Sharepoint/CALS included in their enterprise agreement, so licensing less a barrier to, or driver for adoption.

    The interesting corporate aspect of the Office 2010 (’14’) server side solutions is the extension of the Excel services concept present in Office 2007 to other members of the family. ^^^Controlling (versioning and access to) central, approved spreadsheets and databases finally solves the paradox of productivity tools generating a plethora of instances of business models and data where no-one is sure if they have access to the latest/best/approved.^^^ Now you can have freedom to create at will but publish centrally to all.

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