With hundreds of thousands, if not millions of people using Google Apps and Zoho, two of the main cloud office suites on the web, Microsoft once again sees an opportunity to slam it's iron fist onto the web in hope of crushing the same competitors as before.
With Windows 7 on the way, from the people I've spoken to, students just don't seem that phased by it. Most geeks seem to think it'll just be "another Vista-like disaster" whilst I've got high hopes for it. As all this is going on, Office 14, the next version of Microsoft's office suite, has been showcased at the PDC last month. Again, something people aren't too fussed with as people are only just adopting Office 2007 because their previous licences have expired.
The key difference in this future version, is instead of another desktop application to install, like Groove which was part of Office 2007, the cloud will be calling; offering a web version of the Office 14 suite. It's all over the web; you couldn't have missed it.
(By the way, the gap between Office 12 and Office 14 is intentional; Microsoft are a superstitious bunch
Office Live Workspaces has already made some suspicious of a web-version of Office (Foley, 2008, pp. 117), but the reality is that it'll happen. Let's face it, Office Live Workspaces is crap; my hopes for an online Office reach and exceed the expectations those had and still have for Workspaces.
Nobody knows how it'll be priced yet; whether it'll be part of the cost of the new Office suite, or whether it'll be free for everyone and be a competitor to Google Apps and Zoho. It'll certainly make life easier for us mere mortal students when we're burning the midnight oil to try and squeeze every last sap of knowledge into our essays.
Update 1: that evil genius, Chris Dawson, gives his take on Google Apps being the "killer feature" for academia and education. He makes a bloody good point, mind you.
Update 2: Just stumbled (and stubbed my toe) upon a video. Office Live Workspaces looks to continue, but integrate the "Office Web application", which renders entirely in Silverlight. There's cross compatibility with Firefox as well as Internet Explorer. It'll also be available to business through the "traditional" volume licensing channels. It'll also be available as a limited CTP later on in this or next month. [source: Chris Bryant, GPM Office].