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Microsoft Office Is Coming To the Cloud

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Microsoft’s Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote will have a new home in the cloud, the company announced at the Microsoft Developers Conference in Los Angeles this morning, adding the Office suite to the cadre of software and services it has said it will provide as it develops its Windows Azure cloud-based platform. The browser-based versions of the apps will run on Firefox, Internet Explorer and Safari, as well as on Windows Mobile devices. It will go into a tech preview for developers later this year, the company said.

Given that Microsoft (s MSFT) isn’t talking about when the suite might be released, why the announcement today? The company says it’s because the Office apps are part of its larger shift to the cloud announced with Azure. But it’s also coming relatively late to the game and has let efforts in the productivity space by others go by unchallenged.

In a pre-announcement briefing Monday, Microsoft senior director of Information Worker Group Communications Janice Kapner said Google’s (s GOOG) desktop apps weren’t a serious threat to Office and denied that its browser-based Office suite is a response to other online productivity software like Google Docs, which has a relatively small market share. But the advance announcement suggests the company wants to staunch even the smallest flow of current and potential future customers to alternative products.

Microsoft still needs to find ways to monetize the shift to a multi-device, increasingly web-based world, and a nimble web-based Office suite would be a good step in that direction. That might prevent users shifting loyalties to potential competitors like Google. The new suite will, the company says, allow users to move seamlessly between the desktop and the cloud versions of the Office software. That hybrid web-desktop mode is something Microsoft says underscores the Windows Azure cloud platform it announced Monday.

Microsoft was tight-lipped about pricing but said the suite will be a “lightweight” version of its client-based cousin and will be offered as a package rather than siloed and sold individually.

15 Responses to “Microsoft Office Is Coming To the Cloud”

  1. Microsoft has been trying to ridicule and minimize Google since a long time. The truth is that they are really afraid about Google development and they know that Google has a better competitive position in time. It is only a matter of time before the inevitable happens …

  2. @kayzen – I agree with your comments. My thought is that speed to market is contingent on what you focus on. You have smaller companies such as Zoho and SlideRocket coming to the market,and they seem to be nimbler. And naturally they wouldn’t be concerned with datacenters and backend support for their existing products. But their focus is solely on build applications that run in the browser. And in the case of SlideRocket, just a product for presentation.

    I do have a concern though, the application might not be available for Google Chrome? I can understand that there might not be a big enough base to develop for Chrome, but would they even consider it? Considering they view Google as a competitor.

  3. People are quick to jump on MS for the “lagging” in moving to web based solutions. You have to remember a couple things when saying they are late to the game here.

    One, their aspirations for the cloud run mutch deeper than just delivering applications via the browser. MS has the largest developer community and wants to enable not only their applications as well as all of the outside developers solutions (Azure).

    Two, remember this is the Professional Developers Conference, not the Miscrosoft Consumers Conference. There are thousands of add-ons and integrations for Office applications. They are pre announcing here b/c that is what the conference is all about, empowering the developer. Third parties need to see what MS is doing and play around with functionality ahead of time to figure how they fit into the mix.

    Three, if you look at Office’s install base you cant just crank out a web based Office solution and serve it up. They have been spending that last few years and billions of dollars building out their datacenters and backend to support this effort which is spearheaded and powered by Azure. Just picture what kind of infrastructure would be needed to support just 1% of Word or Excel’s install base around the world.