Office 2010 is a big deal for Microsoft

Today is a big day for Microsoft as it launches Office 2010 at businesses. As we wrote earlier, Office is one of Microsoft's most lucrative products, but today it will also launch a free version of the software in an attempt to head off the threat posed by Google Docs.

Office Web Apps is to be offered free to Windows Live users. It includes applications like Word, Excel, Outlook and PowerPoint and allows users to store their documents on the Web rather than on their computers.

Microsoft has said that Office will range in price from the free Web version - supported by adverts - to the top-end, feature-heavy version that costs $500. Both will become available to lowly consumers in June.

Microsoft said it has developed a way for people to switch between the PC and online versions of Office willy-nilly.

Office is used by 500 million people, although Microsoft admits that many (if not most) of them haven't paid for it. Nevertheless, Microsoft dominates the office space, regularly claiming a 94 per cent market share, according to the research firm Gartner.

But some 25 million people use Google's online Apps and Microsoft undoubtedly sees this as a threat to its hegemony.

Microsoft has integrated currently-ubiquitous social media into the software with a Social Connector tool that allows users to pull information from social networks such as MySpace and LinkedIn into the Office Outlook e-mail program.

It has already launched a trial version of its online apps that integrates with Facebook.