Your cheap little Linux netbook just got a boost in credibility, or will get a boost when Microsoft drops the web app version of Office 2010 next year. To date, Linux netbooks or anything else running the OS had to rely on non-Microsoft programs to read, edit and save in the familiar .doc, .ppt and .xls file formats. What is MS thinking?
While doing their best to keep the stranglehold on the productivity software market, Linux struggles to get a foothold in the market without a painless solution for business documents that doesn’t require how-to instructions on the net. Linux without business documents surely has stunted its growth into the corporate market. By offering their web apps for free, Microsoft is reluctantly offering an olive branch to Linux users. In Microsoft’s video, the company states that browser Internet Explorer won’t be required to use the web app, they even name Firefox and Safari as being compatible. Microsoft doesn’t mention Google’s Chrome (although both Safari and Chrome are built using the same components).
Not mentioning Google Chrome is noteworthy if for no other reason than just last week Google announced plans for an OS for netbooks. Now Microsoft is gunning for a niche where Google has had some success: web apps. The two tech heavyweights continue to battle and posture in a war that is certain to get nastier. Presumably, Google Chrome users will be able to access the Microsoft Office web apps as well.
Microsoft’s late entry to web apps looks to make up for lost time, preserving the user experience on the web. The scaled down versions of Word, Excel, and others look to have duplicated the look and feel while opening the door to augmenting, not competing with their desktop companions. For many users, the web apps will be all that is needed.
Can the inclusion of Linux in Microsoft’s world of business documents give the little netbooks a new lease on life? Does MS Office web apps give more value to the netbooks segment as a whole clearing them for use at work? Either way, Linux just gained some street cred.