Microsoft’s boldest gambit is its new Office Web Apps service, with simplified versions of PowerPoint, Word, the data management program OneNote, and spreadsheet program Excel, made available for free through Microsoft’s Windows Live website. Office Web Apps will launch when Office 2010 goes on sale to businesses on May 12. There will also be a version specially tailored for Facebook.
Of course, giving away this service might also undermine the popularity of standard Office software. But Microsoft is betting that free apps will sharpen our appetite for the full-featured versions, and the company hopes to recoup by selling advertising on the Windows Live site. Besides, there’s the threat of Google Docs, the free online office software from Microsoft’s archrival. Microsoft stood idle while Google conquered online search. It won’t want to make that mistake again.