Office Goes Online

FRAMINGHAM (03/10/2000) - Last fall, Microsoft launched its Office Online pilot program, which gave users subscription-based access to Microsoft Office over the Internet. But many application service providers and analysts see the move as a stopgap measure from Microsoft while it prepares a version of Office that's specifically crafted for Internet deployment.

In a conference call held in January, Microsoft's top executives, Steve Ballmer and Bill Gates, dropped hints about a Web-based version of Office that could be offered as a service on a Web site. It was described by Gates as a "new flavor" of Office. Ballmer said Microsoft would reveal details at the company's Forum 2000 event, expected to be held some time this spring.

Several observers said such a version of Office could allow users to access and edit Office documents from a browser on any type of device. However, this ability might loosen Microsoft's grip on the market.

According to analyst Dwight Davis at Boston-based consultancy Summit Strategies Inc., "When they move to a hosted model of deployment, the rationale for using the whole suite goes away. It moves to a more granular approach to software functionality, and that may not play into Microsoft's strengths."

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