Microsoft: SaaS update

It’s difficult to avoid talk of Microsoft at the moment, what with talk of its (stalled?) bid for Yahoo (post) and recent falling profits; what interested me last week was news of Microsoft beginning trials of web-based Office, and its later Live Mesh announcement. Here’s a quick update….

Web-based Office

According to the Times:

Microsoft is poised to cast off a decades-old model of installing programs such as Word and Excel on computers prior to shipping and instead charge consumers to access them on a monthly basis.

The software giant has said it will begin trials of a product that would deliver some of its most iconic programs, including the Office suite, to consumers via the internet, meaning that programs like Word would no longer sit on a user’s PC.

Consumers would instead access Microsoft’s Office Suite – including Word, Excel, and PowerPoint, and other programs… via the web as part of a monthly fee. Their documents would also sit on Microsoft’s servers.

Microsoft has not said how much the subscription will cost, or when the product is likely to be released, though it suggested it could be introduced by the end of the year.

The move appears to be part of a Microsoft effort to resist Google‘s incursions into its productivity suite territory via Google Docs (with its web-delivered word processing, spreadsheets and presentation applications), by creating its own SaaS offering.

(BTW: Aconex MD and blogger Leigh Jasper has written a couple of interesting posts – see Google Docs, a competitor to construction collaboration tools? and Can you help me? – about how Google Docs did not offer a viable alternative for construction teams wanting to manage project data online.)

Live Mesh

Microsoft announced its Live Mesh vision last Wednesday (see BBC news story, and FAQ: Making sense of Live Mesh), saying it wanted to help users synchronise data across multiple devices and online, blurring the distinction between running software and storing data on a desktop and “in the cloud”, and reflecting, yet again, Microsoft’ss “software plus services” strategy. Reaction has been mixed (see SaaS week post).

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