After teasing the market multiple times, Microsoft plans to finally confirm that it's bringing its most money-making desktop software franchise online and to smart phones.
Microsoft will release lightweight versions of four components of its Microsoft Office suite for the Web and Windows Mobile smart phones, said Chris Capossela, senior vice president of Microsoft's business division, in an interview on Monday.
The four components are Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote. They will become available when the next version of Office, code-named "Office 14," arrives late next year, he said.
A private technology preview of Office Web will be available later this year.
"This is the big fish jumping into the pond," wrote IDC analyst Melissa Webster via e-mail. "Of course, we need to see what the new Web-based tools look like ... but with something like 97% share of the market, Microsoft is certainly the very strong incumbent."
Microsoft's challenge, said Webster, is ensuring that Office Web doesn't end up "cannibalizing" its existing stellar revenue for Office.
Last week, Microsoft reported that revenue from the Microsoft business division (MBD) grew 20 percent year over year to US$4.95 billion in the most recent quarter.
That is more than Microsoft's client division, which makes Windows. Most of MBD's revenue comes from Office, though Microsoft doesn't break out an exact percentage.
1 billion users
"We've done incredibly well with Office 2007. At the same time, Windows has 1 billion users. Office has only 500 million," Capossela said. In other words, there are plenty of "green field" markets ripe for Office Web. Half of employees are "deskless workers" such as doctors, nurses, factory workers, bank branch tellers, pilots and others who typically don't get a full Office suite at work today, but might be good candidates for a cheaper, hosted service, he said.
"The world tends to overestimate the cannibalization risk. We see an awesome growth opportunity," he said.
Consumers will be able to subscribe to Office Web and even get it at a discount price, provided they are willing to view Web ads.