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PDC: Microsoft Office To Be Available as a Service

Microsoft Office users soon will be able to open, create and edit files using "lightweight" hosted versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote, Microsoft announced this week.

Moreover, those online applications will be accessible on the fly, via smart phones, Web browsers or remote PCs. The service will complement Office Mobile applications and installed versions of Office.

On Wednesday, at its Professional Developers Conference in Los Angeles, Microsoft announced that it would add Office Live to its growing list of online apps as part of its "software plus services" strategy.

The hosted Office apps will sit on top of the growing Microsoft Live family of online products. The viewing and sharing of Office files is already available through Microsoft Office Live Workspace, currently in beta release. However, users of Office Live Workspace still need a copy of Microsoft Office if they want to edit and save those shared files.

The beta version of Office Live Workspace is being used by more than a million people, according to Microsoft's announcement.

Office was described as one of Microsoft's leading moneymakers in the company's first-quarter 2009 financial report, published late this month. It's unclear how Microsoft plans to price the new lightweight hosted Office apps, but the planned release suggests that Microsoft is plunging ahead with its overall software plus services strategy.

"We are on a path to deliver all our technology as software-plus-services, and today is an important milestone in this journey," Microsoft Senior Vice President Chris Capossela said in a released statement.

Capossela noted that Microsoft has been offering services such as hosted Exchange, Outlook Web and Live Meeting for "more than 10 years." The company introduced Microsoft Online earlier this year, and mega-companies such as Coca-Cola, Blockbuster and Energizer were quick to adopt the online strategy, he said.

Capossela explained that users typically access various computing devices and "they want a seamless, synchronized experience across those devices to help them work smarter, faster, and better."

The hosted Office can store more than 1,000 Microsoft Office documents in a password-protected environment, according to Microsoft's marketing materials. The service synchronizes contacts, tasks and event lists with Microsoft Outlook.

Hosted files are protected by Forefront Security for SharePoint and require a Windows Live ID and password to access. The user can control permissions and manage which files are available to specific users, according to Microsoft's Web site.

Office Web applications will be available to individual consumers through Office Live, either by subscription or ad funded.

Businesses can access hosted Office apps via "subscription and existing volume licensing programs," according to a Microsoft press release.

Capossela contends that Microsoft's partners will still benefit from selling desktop versions of Office and that when the next version of Office is released there will be a whole new set of Office Web applications that will increase opportunities for OEMs and retail partners.

Availability dates for the hosted Microsoft Office apps were not specified. However, Microsoft plans to release a "private Technical Preview of Office Web applications later this year," according to a Microsoft press release.

About the Author

Herb Torrens is an award-winning freelance writer based in Southern California. He managed the MCSP program for a leading computer telephony integrator for more than five years and has worked with numerous solution providers including HP/Compaq, Nortel, and Microsoft in all forms of media.

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