Last week it was Google deciding to create its own operating system. This week it’s Microsoft making the big announcement: that the next version of Microsoft Office will be available online, for free. Take that, Google Apps!

Microsoft Office is one of the company’s most important products – it includes Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Access (chances are you’ve used one of these before) – and as pretty much the global standard in office software, it generates piles of cash for the company.

So what does this mean? Well, when the next version of Microsoft Office comes out, it’ll be available in the shops as usual. But if you’d rather, you’ll be able to simply visit the Microsoft website, log in and use it there.

It’ll be like having a copy of Microsoft Word (or whatever Office program you’re using) running in your web browser. The buttons and menus will be almost-identical – and it’ll be free.

Of course, there will be some differences. You’ll have to be connected to the internet to use the online version of Office, and you won’t be able to access all the advanced features that are built into the version you pay for.

However, we reckon that for most people, most of the time, the online version will be more than enough to do the job.

Google vs Microsoft, yet again

This plan isn’t a great shock. Pundits have talked about the possibility ever since Google launched Google Apps. This competing suite of tools includes a Word processor, spreadsheet software and more and is also accessed online.

By moving Office online, Microsoft will hope to slow the growth of Google Apps and get even more people to use Office. (After all, if it’s free, why wouldn’t you use it?)

They won’t be too worried about taking a hit to their revenue either. There’ll be a paid version which businesses can upgrade to, and companies will even be able to retain total control by hosting a version of Office on their own servers.

Our verdict? It’s a logical, if obvious, move – and we’ll be watching closely in 2010 when the whole thing becomes available. Now, what will next week bring?

Microsoft Office 2010 should become available sometime next year. In the meantime, there’s more on this story from The Guardian, The Register and Wired.

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2 Responses

  • Keith D

    Can only be good news for the consumer.
    As long as Microsoft and Google are fighting for our support… we are the ones getting the benefits.
    Thanks for bringing this to our attention.

    July 18, 2009 at 9:45 am