The presentation of the new Office 14 at the recent Microsoft Professional Developer Conference was overshadowed by the announcement of Azure and Windows 7.
But Microsoft's most resilient cash cow is coming back with a vengeance as its fourteenth edition introduces web applications in a bid to fend off (or at least disrupt) the growing menace of Zoho Office or Google Docs.
Starting with Word, Excel, Powerpoint and OneNote, users will now be able to work on documents simultaneously and in real time with other collaborators via their web-browser.
And in a clear message that shows that Microsoft now means business by announcing that the new Office online application would be compatible with Internet Explorer, Firefox and Safari (and possibly Chrome which uses the same Webkit foundation).
The use of Microsoft Flash rival, Silverlight, will be encouraged as is the use of Internet Explorer although, as Microsoft made it clear, they are both optional.
Viewing OneNote notes in OneNote Web application.
Editing OneNote notes in OneNote Web application.
Files can be stored either locally or online - with automatic syncing done through Microsoft's Live mesh technology - and during the PDC event, a demo showed two Microsoft employees modifying a Onenote document simultaneously from a Onenote application and from a web-based Onenote app.
Microsoft says that more than one million people have turned to Office Live Workspace to share and collaborate on the web and with lightweight versions of Office applications now available, this number is bound to grow significantly.
A press release from Microsoft says that it will be investing heavily in the software plus service concept (note : that's software AND service, not software AS A service, that's an important nuance).
Microsoft has already said that it might launch an ad-funded, online version of Microsoft Office (or Microsoft Works), called Albany. But then, if Google can do it without ads and deliver more functionality, then the Redmond-based software company will have to up its game soon.
Viewing a Word document in Word Web application.
Editing a Word document in Word Web application.