Microsoft to roll out free Office version alongside Office 10

13 Jul 2009

Never wake a sleeping giant, or at least make sure it’s pinned down. Google has roused Microsoft and now the Seattle giant is taking aim at the Californian usurper where it really hurts – free productivity tools.

For more than two years now Google has been winning business on the back of its Google Docs and Apps business lines and, in recent weeks, the company released software to make it easier for productivity users to switch from Outlook to the Google cloud. Last week was the final straw – Google revealed a new operating system Google Chrome OS that would initially work on netbooks.

Today it emerged that the Microsoft empire is striking back. The Seattle-headquartered software giant is about to release lightweight web browser versions of Word, PowerPoint, Excel and OneNote.

The intention is that these Office Web applications will provide access to documents from virtually anywhere and “preserve the look and feel of a document regardless of device”.

The news emerged today at Microsoft’s Worldwide Partner Conference 2009, where the company announced that Microsoft Office 2010, Microsoft SharePoint server 2010, Microsoft Visio 2010 and Microsoft Project 2010 have reached the technical preview milestone.

Microsoft also announced that it is streamlining the number of Office editions from eight to five, and enhancing each edition with additional applications and features.

The company also announced that 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.

Starting today, tens of thousands of users will be invited to test Office and Visio as part of the Technical Preview programme.

The company outlined some of the features we can expect in the next generation of Office 2010, such as the ability to collaborate via co-authoring in Word, PowerPoint and One Note. The new suite will also come with advanced email management and calendaring capabilities, including the option to ‘ignore’ unwanted threads.

PowerPoint 2010 will also come with advanced video and picture editing via the broadcast capability, and document preparation through the new Microsoft Office Backstage view.

“Office 2010 is the premier productivity solution across PCs, mobile phones and browsers,” said Chris Capossela, senior vice-president of the Microsoft Business Division at Microsoft.

“From broadcast and video editing in PowerPoint, new data visualisation capabilities in Excel and co-authoring in Word, we are delivering technology to help people work smarter and faster from virtually any location using any device.”

By John Kennedy