A bundle of little companies have been creeping into Microsoft's territory by serving up free online word processors that are simpler and often easier to learn than Microsoft Word. Google already took note by buying Writely. Microsoft seems to be waking up and sniffing the opportunity. The oft-overlooked Money, Encarta, and more, might be getting an online component, reports CNET News.com.software, which bundles Word with
Microsoft's had its hands full building the new Windows platform and Office suite for next year. Despite the Web 2.0 focus of its Windows Live services, Microsoft generally hasn't prioritized creating no-frills, Web-based versions of its office software staples (although there is an online test version of the Office 2007 beta).
We've kicked the tires of some of the top Web-based word processors, finding that some are elegant to use and indispensable if you travel a lot, as long as you've got solid Internet access. However, most people won't even consider entrusting their documents to an unfamiliar brand name. But if Microsoft uses its long marketing arm to convince its huge pool of customers to try a Web-based Works, the popularity of online software could quickly accelerate--if users don't mind putting up with ads in the interface.