What to Make of Microsoft's Office for the Web


Just as next Tuesday is a very important day for Americans, there is little doubt in my mind that this week is a defining one for the IT software industry. Earlier this week, Microsoft unveiled a bold, sweeping plan to roll out a cloud-based computing platform called Windows Azure. In addition, developers were for the first time given a hands-on experience of the next version of Windows - Windows 7. To top it off, the software juggernaut also announced that a Web-based version of Microsoft Office is under development, and will debut together with the release of Office 14, the successor to Microsoft Office 2007. So what now? Should SMBs stop buying Microsoft Office suites for new terminals? Well, no.


Microsoft is still in the process of evolving its strategy to compete with the Web-centric approaches of companies like Google and Salesforce.com. However, a decision to forge ahead with a Web-based version of its Office productivity suite reveals nothing about its pricing and product strategies.


In an informal chat with Mr. Ang Tit-Meng, a Regional Director at Microsoft for the OEM APAC, India & Japan region, at a Lenovo server launch event earlier today, I asked Mr. Ang about Microsoft's product and pricing strategy for the pending Web-based Office. My suspicions were verified when he responded that nothing is confirmed at this point - which we already know - and that the playing field for it is "constantly evolving."


You see, even Microsoft acknowledges that matters are extremely fluid at this point in time. Read: It doesn't know what will happen next, either.


For the SMB to make business decisions on the mere announcement of a Web-based version of Office would be foolhardy in the extreme. So go ahead, carry on buying Microsoft Office if that's what you need for your business to run. Of course, you can always check out the recently released OpenOffice 3.0 as an Office replacement, too.