Microsoft Announces Google Apps Killer Technical Preview
It was more than a decade ago that Microsoft’s Outlook email client first became accessible over the Web. Now the rest of the company’s flagship Office suite is following suit. At the opening of its Worldwide Partner Conference in New Orleans this morning, Microsoft announced a “technical preview” of Office 2010 and revealed that some of its key applications–Word, Excel and PowerPoint–will be available over the Web in 2010.
Which says quite a bit about the competitive pressures Microsoft (MSFT) is feeling right now, particularly from Google (GOOG), which first challenged Office two years ago and is now taking on Windows as well. “The fact that Microsoft is developing it at all is a response to Google,” said analyst Matt Rosoff of Directions On Microsoft. “This is a move that they probably wouldn’t have made if they didn’t have to, but there is enough competition bubbling up that they thought they needed a response.”
And a measured response that trumps Google’s offerings, which Office Web Apps will do on a few levels. First, it’s free of user-separation anxiety. Companies attached to Outlook, Word and whatnot will find in Office Web Apps the same familiar interfaces and functionality. No need to grudgingly replicate the Office experience as Google recently had to do with it Outlook synchronization tool for Apps, because Office Web Apps is Office.
Second, Microsoft’s approach offers enterprise an on-premises hosting option. Which means companies that aren’t comfortable running the suite on Microsoft’s remote data centers can run it on their own servers. And, as Gartner (IT) fellow Tom Austin notes, that could do much to distinguish it from Google Apps in the marketplace. “The hybrid hosting model removes a barrier to entry that Google cannot remove, so it is somewhat of a big thing,” Austin told Digital Daily.
“Interesting question is whether this hybrid hosting model is the Lockheed Prop-jet Electra of the era. Lockheed brought out a propjet at the same time Boeing and Douglas were coming out with turbojets (the 707 and DC-8 respectively). Boeing and Douglas won out, of course, but it didn’t help that the Electras had a problem with staying in the air….I am not saying that Microsoft Cloud-Office offering is a prop-jet Electra. I am saying firms will likely opt out of choosing the hybrid model because it’s less effective (like the electra).”