Microsoft Office Web App to Launch Monday?

Picture 4Was yesterday’s hurried Google Chrome OS (s goog) announcement designed to steal some of Microsoft’s (s msft) thunder ahead of a big launch on Monday? Robert Scoble certainly thinks so, and although he can’t say what that big news is, Long Zheng speculates that it might be the launch of the Microsoft Office web app. The timing is right: The Office 2010 Technical Preview ships this month to invitation-only testers and close integration of a new web app with the next version of Office is a logical move.

Microsoft originally announced it was working on an Office web app last October, at the 2008 PDC. As I noted in a report for GigaOM Pro (subscription required), moving Office into the web makes a lot of sense. It would give its 500 million worldwide users the full functionality of Office on their desktops, combined with the collaborative and access-anywhere power of the cloud, and would also neatly address the challenge posed by the cloud-based office software of Google and Zoho.

Microsoft’s current online storage facility, Live Workspaces, is underwhelming — it doesn’t have online editing capabilities and can’t compete with Google Docs for collaboration. Many of Office’s users have been longing for a well-designed online version of the suite. Perhaps Monday’s announcement will provide it for them.