Rumours abound that Microsoft is readying a free cloud based version of Office to be released in the very near future. This is part of the plan to de-emphasize the re-branded SkyDrive and lift the profile of Office as a wide ranging productivity tool.
Office is a major source of revenue for Microsoft but has generally been shackled to Windows as its base platform. With the proliferation of mobile devices, Windows is no longer the dominant and growing platform of choice for many people. This has meant that Office is missing out on the opportunity to be present on these devices allowing other suites easy access to a growing band of mobile users.
Microsoft already has a strong product offering around Office Web Apps in commercial products like Office 365 so moving these features to a free or low cost alternative shouldn’t be difficult. When combined with connectivity to traditional desktop productivity applications any new web only version of Office seems like a very compelling offer.
Microsoft is also working on a new release of its Office software (codenamed Office 16), which will probably be available for the web in advance of anything available on the desktop. The most interesting aspect of any change is whether Microsoft will release a version of Office for the iOS and Android platforms. There has been many calls for such a move and it would certainly further cement the Office product, especially for corporate users.
Given a new CEO at the helm, there is a good possibility that these planned changes for Office will come to fruition.sooner rather than later so keep your eye on the cloud.