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Office Goes Online...Sort Of

Finally! Microsoft Office is going Live...for real this time. Microsoft announced this week at the PDC in L.A. that there will be browser-based versions of Word, Excel and PowerPoint, with a beta probably available sometime in 2009.

But let's read the fine print from the CNET article linked above:

"Microsoft will offer browser-based Word, Excel, and PowerPoint in two ways. For consumers, they will be offered via Microsoft's Office Live Web site, while businesses will be able to offer browser-based Office capabilities through Microsoft's SharePoint Server product."

Hmm...so the business offering is really more of a distributed, on-premises model running on SharePoint as opposed to a pure SaaS offering with Office running in a datacenter. OK. Then, there's this:

"Elop said that not all of the editing capabilities of the desktop products are in the browser versions. 'The editing we are characterizing as lightweight editing,' he said."

Ahh...OK. So, browser-based Office will be a scaled-down version of the (very bloated, we must say) original.

All of this gets back to what we've said here before -- for all its talk about and investment in cloud computing, Microsoft still sees the cloud as being very much tethered to on-premises deployments. That's a model that might work -- but what we still haven't seen from Microsoft is a true, un-tethered, Salesforce.com-style, pure SaaS model.

And we all know why: Office is a big moneymaker, and giving up those license sales and replacing them with monthly subscription fees would be a shock to Redmond's system. Hey, we're not saying that browser-based Office isn't welcome or isn't a good model -- only that it's clear that Microsoft is having trouble letting go of its desktop roots. That's what Redmond really means by Software plus Services -- services plus the software revenue the company can't live without. Hey, it could work, but it won't really be SaaS. Not really.

Posted by Lee Pender on October 29, 2008 at 11:54 AM