Microsoft is finally doing what many have been clamoring for -- making Web-based versions of its Office apps available -- but in a different way than expected.
As part of the Office 14 release wave, Microsoft is going to provide "Office Web applications," which it is describing as "lightweight versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote. These versions will allow users to access their documents via a Web browser on the PC, phone or other devices.
Microsoft is slated to make the announcement about its Office Web applications plans at the Professional Developers Conference (PDC) in Los Angeles on October 28 during the morning keynote.
Office Web applications are not meant to be a replacement for the client version of Office. Microsoft still will deliver a traditional Office 14 client release for PCs. Office Web applications are more of an adjunct to Office 14 -- more along the lines of Office Live Workspace.
While Office Live Workspace, which is still in beta, allows users to collaborate and annotate Office documents, it's not really meant for heavy editing of documents. Beyond that, I'm vague on how Office Live Workspace and Office Web applications interact and/or compete. I also am somewhat fuzzy on exactly how these Office Web Applications work under the covers.
Microsoft is saying it will deliver Office Web applications "through Office Live." There will be both ad-funded and paid-subscription versions of these Web apps. For business users, Office Web applications will be sold as a hosted subscription service and through volume-licensing agreements. For consumers, Office Web Applications will be ad-funded and free.
There will be a private tech preview of Office Web applications starting later this year. Those interested in participating will be able to sign up for the preview from the Office Live Workspace site.
Microsoft officials still won't talk about when Office 14 is due to ship. Until recently, many expected it to be released in the latter half of 2009. But I've been hearing recent scuttlebutt that 2010 might be a more realistic target.