Microsoft takes on Google as Office moves to the web

Microsoft says it will release three versions of its dominant Office software that users can access over the web, catching up with products that rival Google Inc. launched three years ago, Reuters reports. The announcement marks the latest salvo in an intensifying war between Microsoft and Google. Google announced plans last week to challenge Windows with a free operating system, and Microsoft introduced a new search engine, Bing, last month. Microsoft will offer web-based versions of its Office suite of programs free of charge to consumers, including a word processor, spreadsheet, presentation software, and a note-taking program. The company also will host one internet-based business version of Office at its own data centers, charging companies a yet-to-be-announced fee. Companies with premium service contracts will have the choice of running a second web-based version from their own data centers at no extra cost. Microsoft hopes to make money by using the free software to lead users to its ad-supported web sites, including Bing. Microsoft will release the web offerings when it starts selling Office 2010, it next major release of the product, sometime in the first half of next year…

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