Microsoft to expand its Office streaming service?

Computerworld is reporting that Microsoft is likely to announce the week of April 28 a new licensing arrangement for Office via which it would be available as a streamed service.

Computerworld is reporting that Microsoft is likely to announce the week of April 28 a new licensing arrangement for Office via which it would be available as a streamed service.

The thinking, according to the report, is that this would give Microsoft, its partners and customers another alternative to Google Apps and other cloud-based productivity services -- without going so far as to be a completely cloud-hosted version of Office.

Microsoft already offers the capability to license Office this way using its SoftGrid application virtualization technology that is part of the Microsoft Desktop Optimization Pack. The version available last year allowed users to stream apps to any desktop inside their firewall. A follow-on version would allow users to stream any app that can be virtualized to either their destkops or the Web, Microsoft told me last year.

SoftGrid is based on technology acquired when it bought Softricity in 2006. It allows users to run apps without installing them on a local machine by making available a single image of Office or even a custom line-of-business application to multiple users to push it out to them without having to touch each desktop. Gavriella Schuster, who was Senior Director of Product Management of the Desktop Optimization Pack team described SoftGrid's functionality to me this way:

SoftGrid just pulls (the bits) that are needed. IT doesn’t have to do all the regression testing it normally does. It doesn’t need to check in advance for potential application conflicts and crashes. It’s especially good for users with lots of custom business applications.”

She noted that SoftGrid also allows users to work offline, since the bits that are installed on a user’s desktop remain there, even when the machine is disconnected from the corporate network.

I've asked Microsoft whether there's a new Office streaming trial in the pipeline. No word back so far. The timing makes sense, given next week is Microsoft's annual Microsoft Management Summit in Las Vegas.

Anyone using SoftGrid today to stream Office to users' desktops today? What works and doesn't?