Microsoft watchers and competitors keep waiting for Microsoft to admit that it is going to make Microsoft Office available in the cloud. They just can't believe -- even though Microsoft execs continue to say it -- that Microsoft isn't going to roll out a Web-based version of Office.
"No demand for Office in the cloud?" my ZDNet blogging colleague Dan Farber wonders. I am not as incredulous. Among the Microsoft business users with whom I've discussed this, there really is not much demand for such an offering. Granted, Microsoft consumers and SOHO customers might feel differently. But I just can't find the enterprise users who are clamoring for hosted Office.
Many pundits are equating Microsoft's reticence to roll out Web-based Word, Excel and PowerPoint as Microsoft conceding the Web-based Office space to Google, OpenOffice, ThinkFree, etc.
I believe Microsoft is telling the truth. (Shocking!) The company has no plans, at least for the forseeable future, to make Office available as a hosted/cloud offering.
But conceding the Web-based productivity space? No way. Here are a few things to remember:
1. Microsoft hasn't ruled out making available SOME kind of hosted office suite. Last year, Microsoft execs acknowledged that they are considering making Microsoft Works available as a hosted offering for the SMBs who want Web-based productivity apps.
2. Microsoft has told its hosting partners to expect the Redmond software vendor to offer hosted Exchange (and possibly also hosted SharePoint) itself. Microsoft also has been testing with a handful of customers a number of managed services (desktop management, security, compliance and voice) that it plans to provide directly to customers.
3. Office Live is going to continue to evolve to include more and more hosted services. Watch for Microsoft to position its growing Office Live family as hosted document-management/records management/collaboration products. Already today, Live Meeting is basically a hosted conferencing service and "Tahiti" is going to be a slimmed-down version of Live Meeting.
Microsoft has been struggling to explain its Software+Services message. But the take-away, at least for me, is that no one should expect Microsoft to rush out and host its cash-cow software. What Microsoft will host are the services that supplement Windows and Office.