In case you haven’t heard, Microsoft Office 2010 will be web based. Yeay!
However, they are still going to be charging money for this. Boo!
Microsoft could get a lot of people using Bing if they simply made a cloud version of Office. Sound like a bad fiscal decission? It’s not! Here’s why:
1) Not everyone needs everything that comes with the full version of office anyway. A simple version of Word and Excel would be enough to make most people happy. If they don’t like it, they can buy the full version.
2) PowerPoint is useless to the average user. However, you could retool it so people can create presentations out of their photos, videos, music, narration, and share it on Microsoft Video. If it’s easy to use, a lot more people would create, and you’d have a wealth of fresh, new, common use content on your other platform. (As well as giving people something else to share with your new Hotmail.)
3) You could add more to the sale version of Office, to make it more enticing. Certainly a Microsoft Money for Small Business on Office would help to get more people using both. If people need a heftier version of Office for college or a small business, then they’ll pay for it. Everyone else who just needs to write a quick letter can do it on their site.
4) If you can build dominance with a free version of Office, you can take an important shot at Google Docs, which more and more people are using who don’t want to pay for the full version of Office. The problem with Docs is it doesn’t have the tools and usability people are already used to with Office. The best way to compete with Google is to offer people what they already know.
5) Google Docs kills office on price, sharing and online storage of documents. Obviously, a competing could version would take care of the price advantage. Including sharing and online storage would be simple to add, and level the playing field against Google.
6) Why would Microsoft care to compete with Google Docs? Because it keeps some people using Google Search. If Office was widely available as a component of Bing, don’t you think there would be a LOT more people using that?
Microsoft would make their money back – in advertising. Google has no problem paying the bills each month because they have hoards of traffic. If Bing sacrificed the small percentage of income they get from households that just need a copy of word, and exchanged it for the ad revenue they’d get from all those people using their site, they’d make all that cash back. Seriously.
7) Finally, if Microsoft doesn’t, Google will own the market on free desktop publishing with Docs. It’s been growing slowly, but as more and more people balk at the idea of paying for Office when they can get the simple jobs done with Docs, more will. Office can jump into the fight any time – but the longer they wait, the more people will just get used to using Docs, and they’ll lose the advantage they have now of being the most familiar program.
That’s all of the reasons I can think of in one sitting – but I’m sure there’s more. I doubt Steve Ballmer will read this, but if you are Steve, seriously – you’ve got an Ace in the hole, and you need to play it.