Microsoft has finally announced formally something that we’ve all been speculating would happen for some time. Office 2010 will have not only an online version, but both paid and (the big news) a free version on the web. Microsoft is, of course, dominating the traditional ‘brick-and-mortar’ desktop-based office productivity software with their Office product already. They are entering the online document market with competitors Google and Zoho already with a decent foothold on the online market. Unfortunately for Google, Zoho, and others, Microsoft has a pretty good reputation from its Office client and anything with the Office label is probably going to be accepted by consumers.
As Matt Asay points out in Microsoft’s strategy in the virtualization market, ‘good enough’ and convenience sometimes are plenty to take over a market. Microsoft has something that Google and Zoho do not: desktop operating system market share. Just like Microsoft has done in the browser market to take over most of the market until Firefox came around (they still hold the majority), they essentially have a ‘botnet’ of users in Windows users. If the integration with Windows 7 and Office online is ‘good enough’ and integrated in the OS already, users may be drawn to it out of simplicity. Often consumers don’t care about what technology is better. In fact, I would argue that most of the time they don’t care about what’s better. They just care about what is easily available and the quickest. If Office online can meet their needs in a pinch, they probably won’t explore other options.
On the flip side of that, Google and Zoho do have a pretty good foothold in the web-based docs market. Google Docs or Zoho just might be ‘good enough’ to keep users already using their services. Plus, services like these often don’t integrate with others, so they tend to be somewhat viral in nature since collaboration with others requires those users to sign up for those services. As OS X and Linux start to become more popular alternatives to Windows, Microsoft’s advantages in integrating its OS may start to diminish, but their marketshare is still pretty high.
We still have to see exactly what Microsoft has up its sleeves for features in Office Web. Microsoft is calling their Office Web apps an “online companion” to its desktop applications, so we will see what they offer in features. Promised features so far are the ability to create documents and do basic editing, something that both Google and Zoho can blow out of the water. Only time will tell what will happen, but Google and Zoho seem to have finally brought Microsoft out of its fortified position on the ground with Office to do battle in the clouds.