Clearly, one reason for the online apps has been to defend against customer defections to Google Apps for Business, the $50 per user per year service that includes Google Docs. Microsoft currently counters Google Apps for Business with a pair of Office 365 plans built around Office Online: One, aimed at small businesses with 25 or fewer employees, is priced at $5 per user per month ($60 annually); the second, targeting larger firms, runs $8 per user per month ($96 a year).
But on the consumer and very-small-business fronts, Microsoft risks cannibalization of its Office desktop suite by pushing Office Online, analysts have said. Hiding the apps may have been one way to reduce that cannibalization.
Putting them in a prominent place -- Microsoft's office.com domain is a large, sprawling and popular landing page -- increases that risk, that casual users will see the features of Office Online as sufficient, as "good enough" for their needs.
"Longer term, Microsoft has to worry about cannibalization," said Michael Silver, a Gartner analyst, in a November 2013 interview. "But the revenue involved [in consumer sales] isn't significant."
Microsoft has pledged to bring Android within the Office Online support fold, but there was no evidence of that today.
Gregg Keizer covers Microsoft, security issues, Apple, Web browsers and general technology breaking news for Computerworld. Follow Gregg on Twitter at @gkeizer, or subscribe to Gregg's RSS feed . His email address is email@example.com.
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