Watching Google and Microsoft lately has been like watching a tennis match: Each company seems to be taking turns hitting back at the other with new announcements, new products, and so forth. The latest volley isn’t strictly search-related, but it’s very notable: Microsoft announced “lightweight” versions of its Office products that will be free and web-based — a direct competitor to Google Apps.
The free products will include Word, PowerPoint, Excel, and OneNote, and will be available to anyone with a Microsoft Live account.
Just last week, Google got into the OS business when it announced the Google Chrome OS. Microsoft’s most recent volley before that, of course, was the introduction of Bing, its new search engine. And those are just the recent pieces of this back-and-forth game the two companies are playing.
Google Apps are popular today, no doubt in large part to beating Microsoft to the punch with free, online productivity apps. But Google’s advantage will disappear if the millions of people who use Microsoft Office on their computers begin to use the online versions and are satisfied with the experience.
The web versions of these four Office apps should be available in the first half of 2010. You can bet on Google returning this Microsoft volley before then.
There’s more discussion on Techmeme.