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Microsoft Office 14 To Include Web Apps

The software maker has yet to set a release date, but industry watchers say the online suite could be available next year.

Microsoft's plan to offer a Web-based version of its Office productivity suite will debut with the release of Office 14, the successor to Microsoft Office 2007, a company executive said Tuesday.

Office Web, as the online version is called, is part of Microsoft's "vision for delivering great user experiences across the PC, phone, and the Web in Office 14," said Microsoft Office general manager Takeshi Numoto, speaking Tuesday at the company's Professional Developers Conference in Los Angeles.

Numoto did not specify a release date for Office 14. Bloggers at some tech sites, however, have said the suite is likely due out in 2009. Office 2007 debuted in January 2007.

Numoto said that the Web-based versions of Office applications like Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote would allow users to collaborate with others and across multiple devices more efficiently. "This is a great example of Office enabling dynamic collaboration across the PC, phone, and the Web," said Numoto.

Numoto did not offer insight into pricing details, such as whether users who purchase the boxed version of Office 14 will get free access to the Web version.

In launching the suite, Microsoft is looking to protect its flank from Google -- which last year launched a host of free and low-cost office productivity applications under a brand called Google Apps. For a single monthly fee per user, enterprises can roll out Google Apps to as many employees as they like.

Hosted offerings like Google Apps and Microsoft's forthcoming Office Web offer users less complexity and easier maintenance. The downside is that hosted applications are not available for use if Internet access is cut off.

In the Web era, Microsoft is continuing to push traditional desktop applications and client operating systems while introducing complementary, hosted products. It's a strategy the company calls "software plus services." In keeping with that, Microsoft on Monday unveiled a hosted version of the Windows operating system called Windows Azure. "We are on a path to deliver all our technology as software plus services," senior VP Chris Capossela said.

Microsoft said it plans to sell Web Office directly and also through resellers and partners.

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