In a single most important indication of things to come, Microsoft pulled the curtains to announce that Microsoft Office programs such as Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote would be available as light-weight, browser-based apps, much like Google Apps. However, unlike Google Apps, Microsoft Office Web applications won’t be available entirely free. Expect to see both paid and advertiser supported versions. Significantly, Microsoft has also announced that these online programs would run beyond Microsoft’s own Internet Explorer in other browsers including Mozilla Firefox and Apple Safari. These answers and announcements were part of the PDC (Professional Developers Conference), being held at the Los Angeles Convention Center from October 27th to 30th, 2008.
PC Magazine adds that “users will be able to sign up for an Office Live beta at some point in the future at the Office Live Workspace site, Microsoft said Tuesday. A technical preview of the software/service will be released later this year.”
CNET has more info: “In an interview, Microsoft Business Division President Stephen Elop said that the browser-based editing capabilities are being developed in conjunction with the next version of Office, known as Office 14. Microsoft won’t say when that version will arrive, but Elop said that a technology preview of the browser-based products will come later this year and that a beta version will be released in 2009.”
InfoWorld folks wonder about the timing when they ask: “Why is Microsoft announcing this now when it could have brought out browser-based versions of its apps long ago? “We’ve been figuring out the right thing to build for quite some time,” said Kapner. “The company had to feel good about its [services] strategy across the company. We had to make sure our Office strategy fit with the larger strategy.””