Business Week says Microsoft plans to add the functionality of its second tier office suite, Microsoft Works, to the web-based Office Live. This would bring Microsoft Word, spreadsheets (a light versions of Excel, with files completely compatible with their Microsoft Office counterparts) calendar, address book, project organizing, email, thesaurus, Encarta, and Powerpoint viewing, in a made-for-online form.
The company is working on plans to offer a free version hosted on its Office Live Web site, as well as a subscription flavor with more bells and whistles. While it’s not a done deal, the company is throwing a lot of manpower at the project. “It’s not a small number (of people working on the project) to be sure,” says Chris Capossela, vice-president for Microsoft’s Business Division Product Management Group. “This is core. We want to win this space.”
Based on Office Live, Microsoft knows hot to do web-based application incredibly well (and better than Google), it just hasn’t done so.
Now, Works Live may not contain all of the functionality of the store-bought Works package, but if it is close enough, it could be very successful. If Microsoft is smart, it’ll come up with a business model designed to appeal to those who would consider Google:
- Full version, complete with every function Microsoft can build in, free for Office users (must be running the most recent version of any Office or Works Suite), or $25 a year for others. Unlimited space for saving files.
- Free limited version, with Microsoft promising to meet or exceed any feature of any major web-based competitor). Storage space shared with your Hotmail/Live Mail/Live Drive account.
If Microsoft gave away the store to Office users, but required those without Office to pay up, it wouldn’t be competing with itself, which is the primary worry at MS. Those users who might buy Office if it was cheaper, they can pay for the full version. Those users who will never buy Office, they can try the free version, which will at the least be competitive with Google
Keep in mind, these are just my speculative ideas. Indeed, Microsoft’s vision might be completely different. And BusinessWeek might be wrong. It could be that my vision of the limited version is all you’ll ever see of Works Live. As usual, we’ll just have to wait and see.