Great Expectations: Microsoft Office for Free

Microsoft Office

Office is probably one of Microsoft’s most profitable products. So, why would Microsoft take a risk and offer for free something so many people buy unconditionally, independent of the existence of a free tool, “in the cloud” like Google Docs or Zoho?

It’s pretty simple: even with free Office Web Applications “in the cloud” there is nothing to say that the desktop software will become freeware: it’s far more “rich” in features and functionality than the “carrot” thrown at us “in the cloud.”

But Office, even in its online version, might be superior in many aspects to anything yet offered by Google and others (this is hard to assess since Microsoft isn’t letting anyone test the apps just yet). It’s very probable that companies and individuals will no longer pay for the desktop variant of Office, unless they have to work frequently offline (banks and other companies that deal with sensitive documents).

So, what happens when Microsoft releases its Office 2010 free online? Will the Google Docs and Zoho users flock to Microsoft Office Web apps, or will they choose to stick with their current editing programs in the cloud?

PC World already made a Microsoft Office vs. Google Docs comparison where Microsoft wins the battle for Look and Feel, Word editing, and spreadsheets; while Google wins at collaborations and presentation (PowerPoint).

  • OneNote Web App – an application that keeps track of notes and other data in various formats.
  • Excel 2010 Web App with multiuser co-authoring features and the ability to use the same Excel formulas on online and in the client version of the program.
  • PowerPoint 2010 Web App – with plenty of animations to choose from, in-browser and full-screen Slide Show views; autocorrect, spelling checker, and auto-numbering/bulleting and undo/redo and ability to insert pictures, charts, and tables into existing PowerPoint presentations.
  • Office Word App to create, edit, and save Word documents with functions like add tables, bullets and styles, AutoCorrect and spelling checker.

Office Web Apps will be accessible via desktop, mobile devices, and the Web browsers Internet Explorer, Firefox, and Safari.

Office Web applications will be available in three ways: through Windows Live, where more than 400 million consumers will have access to Office Web applications at no cost; on-premises for all Office volume licensing customers including more than 90 million Office annuity customers; and via Microsoft Online Services, where customers will be able to purchase a subscription as part of a hosted offering.

So what do you think? Are you anxious to see Office Apps or will you remain faithful to your current online editors? Regardless, one has to wonder at Microsoft’s motivations, and at what is going on behind the scenes there. Perhaps this writer has become skeptical given all the issues with Microsoft products in the past? How about you? Waggener Edstrom is the longtime PR agency for Microsoft.