Office Goes to the Web

Microsoft (MSFT) made a stunning announcement during today’s Professional Developers Conference: a lightweight Web-based version of Office.

Earlier in the day, Microsoft debuted Windows 7. Windows 7’s core feature focus is making content more easily accessible across devices, PCs or services.

Takeshi Numoto, general manager of Office Client, demoed Office Web early this afternoon, during today’s PDC keynote.

Office Web is a stunning concession to Google and other Web 2.0 platform developers offering Web-based productivity applications. Office Web will come with lightweight versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote. But the announcement is about what Microsoft has today. A technology preview will be available later this year. Microsoft plans to offer Office Web with release of the next desktop version, code-named Office 14.

The timing clearly is deliberate. Google has picked up some recent, high-profile converts to Apps from Office, such as Washington, D.C. By announcing Office Web now, Microsoft gives some organizations considering Google Apps reasons to delay and wait. This is a longstanding Microsoft tactic: announcing early as means of creating uncertainty and doubt about whether an enterprise should wait or switch to a competing product.

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