Will Microsoft (News - Alert) be able to adapt to the Web-focused landscape, and break out of its software-centric approach? With Office 2010 shipping in early May we'll be well on our way to an answer to that.
As industry observer Michael Fitzgerald reports, "Microsoft will also offer free, ad-supported Web versions of Office applications," which he characterizes as "Microsoft's attempt to fend off a growing number of free Web-based office apps, including Google Docs and Zoho."
The regular versions of Office 2010 will cost between $99 and $499. If you pay that you can also access "more complete Web versions" of the apps, Fitzgerald says.
Perhaps not coincidentally, as industry observer Tom Krazit reports, Google (News - Alert) has "made some under-the-hood changes to its Google Docs product, promising faster service and real-time collaboration tools."
The changes, Krazit says, "address many of the demands of Google Docs users for more speed and better compatibility with offline products like Microsoft Word and Excel."
In a report released by IDC (News - Alert) in September 2009, "some 20 percent of business users said Google Docs is in widespread use at their companies - up from less than 6 percent 18 months earlier," Fitzgerald reports, adding that "IDC expects this figure reach 27 percent this year, which could spell trouble for Microsoft, which gets as much as 60 percent of its profits from Office, if it means users are turning away from its software."
Google's getting Docs in as good of shape as possible before Office 2010 hits, as industry observer Harry McCracken writes, noting that Among the changes Google is promising faster interfaces for the Documents and Spreadsheets apps, better, more faithful importing and exporting of Microsoft's file formats and more desktop-like features - "for instance, Documents now has a ruler and a drag-and-drop table creator and Spreadsheets has drag-and-drop column reordering and autofill."
Microsoft's Kurt DelBene (News - Alert), senior vice president of Office Business Productivity, says the company wants to develop Office Web Apps so that files look and behave the same both offline and online in "Internet Explorer, Firefox, and Safari browsers," Fitzgerald says, adding that "DelBene says Microsoft has not seen enough demand for Google's Chrome browser to support it."
This would stink, as we use Chrome exclusively.