Yesterday Microsoft commented that it is considering making free versions of its basic word processing and spreadsheet applications available online. Before visions of a future free of software licensing begin to dance in our heads, it should be noted that online versions of this software will likely offer significantly fewer features than the full versions. The software being considered for release also bears a stronger resemblence to the consumer-oriented Works Suite than the more enterprise-oriented Microsoft Office. Nonetheless this announcement represents a considerable about-face from the nations leading software provider. Previously Microsoft had maintained a Dickenisan resistance to offering its software online. The change is likely due to a growing trend toward Web-based software, led by Google.
This trend was previously discussed on SADA Speaks in this blog about Writely, a free online word processing program offered by Google.
Earlier this month Google bundled their proprietary e-mail software, GMail, with a number of other applications and released them as a hosted, software-as-a-service product for businesses, universities, and other organizations. The package, dubbed Apps for Your Domain, also includes Google’s IM software (Google Talk), Calendar, and Page Creator (for creating and editing web-pages). In addition, the Apps for Your Domain are fully brandable, allowing subscribers and businesses to create a privately-labelled suite of applications. It remains to be seen if the online applications offered by Microsoft will have comparable features to free applications already available through Google, or allow company branding.
To learn more about freely available productivity applications check out some of the links below: