Last Friday I went to a SharePoint user group hosted by Microsoft in Reading. While there Microsoft highlighted some of the announcements which were made at the PDC conference in October.
One of the highlights was that in Office 14, the next version of Microsoft Office, Microsoft will deliver “Office Web Applications” which are lightweight versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote which run in browsers. This won’t just be IE either, they will be cross-browser compatible and run on different devices as well, such as your phone.
Microsoft’s aim with the online verion is to make them ‘high-fidelity’, i.e. they will look exactly the same in the browser based version as the rich-client version. They will also support multiple people editing a single document at a time, just like currently in OneNote. The online versions won’t have all the features of the rich-client version, but I imagine that most of what we use them for will be supported, with only the more esoteric functions missing.
Licensing and costs have not been announced yet, but Microsoft will deliver Office Web Applications to consumers through Office Live and to businesses as a hosted subsription service and through existing volume licensing agreements.
It will be interesting to see how peoples view of Office changes with the move towards person licensing rather than device licensing. I can see a large take-up amongst students where they can use the free ad-funded license. However, I imagine businesses are going to be more cautious and roll-out the rich-client when they upgrade rather then just rely on the web based offering as it will be quite a mind-set change.
There’s some more information on the Microsoft PressPass site.