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Microsoft Attacks Google With Free Cloud-Based Office Web

Peter Judge has been involved with tech B2B publishing in the UK for many years, working at Ziff-Davis, ZDNet, IDG and Reed. His main interests are networking security, mobility and cloud

Office 2010 will be available for free in the cloud, through Microsoft’s Windows Live: analysts expect it to beat Google Docs

In a response to free office software, such as the online Google Docs service, Sun’s OpenOffice and IBM’s Lotus Symphony, Microsoft has promised to offer a free Web-based version of its Office productivity software.

Office Web, accessed through the Windows Live portal, will launch cloud versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and the OneNote jotter, directly in the user’s browser. It will arrive at the same time as the next generation product, Office 2010, early next year. A preview of the product is now ready for download by selected partners, Microsoft said today at a partner conference in New Orleans.

Sales of Microsoft Office have been declining rapidly, but the division is still one of Microsoft’s most profitable divisions – with £5.8 billion ($9.3bn) profit on £8.9 billion ($14.3bn) sales over the first three quarters of this financial year, according to Reuters. Reviewing a recent update to Office 2007, eWEEK Europe noted several strong features.

Given that revenue stream, the company is not abandoning paid-for Office products. Even though the Web products will have the same look and feel, the company wants to shore up Office sales by offering some features exclusively in the paid for version – such as video editing in the PowerPoint presentation software.

Despite this, the company plans to put enough features in the free version to trump Google Docs – and even include some online-only features, such as a natural handling of web tags for use in blogs, a spokesman said.

The online version of Microsoft Office will rapidly overtake Google Docs, because of the universal acceptance of Office, analyst Sheri McLeish of Forrester Research told Reuters. She expects Microsoft to follow Google’s lead and try to use Office Web to lead users to sites funded by advertising, such as the Bing search engine.

There will also be more functional online version of Office, reports said. These will be available to business users for a fee, and can be run in the users’ own data centres – a major distinction from Google, which has been criticised for not allowing this. Google Docs has also been criticised for security flaws.

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As a highly relevant way to build excitement in an office productivity suite, Microsoft provided an onloine teaser trailer (Silverlight required, of course) – Windows 2010: The Movie