Microsoft's decision to offer Office 10 free online proves that its competition with Google is as serious as a heart attack.
It is interesting that analysts just shrugged at the news. At this decade's start Office was a bigger financial deal to Microsoft than Windows. Its long fight to make OOXML a standard was designed to reinforce a monopoly users were paying big money to stay a part of.
According to Microsoft's Web site upgrading any Office product costs hundreds of dollars, and if you got yours cheap -- if you were a student -- there is no upgrade available.
Now you can go online and use the stuff inside a browser? That's leaving serious money on the table.
Admittedly, the definition of Office has changed over the years. To Microsoft, Office is the entry point into a host of products -- databases, design products, management products -- which lead to five-figure server licenses for things like SharePoint, available only when bought in volume.
Why did Microsoft cut the bottom rung off this ladder? Because it had to. OpenOffice.org and online alternatives like Google Apps and Zoho have made Office unprofitable at the consumer level. Besides, as reviewers have noted, word processors and spreadsheets are mature products -- what is there to upgrade to?