Microsoft has created a chimera in its new Office 2010 software, part desktop software and part Web app.
This latest version of Office, which includes applications like Word, Excel, Outlook and PowerPoint, is Microsoft’s long-awaited effort to modernise one of its most lucrative products and to thwart rivals like Google that are nipping at its heels with free Web software.
For the first time, Microsoft will provide a free online version of Office that lets people store their documents on the Web rather than on their personal computers.
If all goes according to Microsoft’s plan, this technology, along with a host of other features, will persuade businesses and consumers to upgrade their Office software once again. “It is a remarkable moment,” said Stephen Elop, the president of Microsoft’s business software division, who will showcase Office 2010 on Wednesday at an event in New York.
It is now available for businesses. Microsoft has said that Office will range in price from a limited, free Web version supported by ads to a full-blown version that costs $500, both to be available to consumers in June. Most analysts say they think Microsoft will hold on to its near monopoly on productivity software.
Richard Williams, the senior software analyst at Cross Research, said that most companies would continue to choose Office because it was familiar and safe.
Users of the new version of Office will be able to share and work on the same documents and presentations over the Internet rather than e-mailing files back and forth to each other. Microsoft has created a way for people to flip from the PC to online versions of Office to give users the best of both worlds.
If many of those functions sound familiar, it is because Google, Adobe and smaller companies like Zoho have been giving away Web-based apps that do much the same thing. But the rival products have hardly made a dent in the sales of Office — a product used by 500 million people. Over the last three years, Microsoft’s share of the office software market has remained static at 94 per cent, according to the research firm Gartner. Adobe ranks second in office software revenue with almost 4 per cent of the market, leaving scraps for about eight other companies.