For instance, for businesses licensed for Microsoft's Software Assurance maintenance program, it is not a requirement to access Office Web Apps through the Windows Live Online Service or through a subscription-based model. Microsoft is allowing companies with Software Assurance to run Office Web Apps as a free service within the company's firewall, and then give workers access to the apps via the Web. This will give skittish IT managers more control over potentially sensitive online content.
Also in Microsoft's favor is that consumers and business users may be more likely to use Office Web Apps because Microsoft Office already has broad reach on computers everywhere, with approximately 80 percent of businesses that run production tools using Office, according to Forrester data. This level of trust and comfort is a luxury that Google does not have.
McLeish notes that giving companies the option to run Office Web Apps behind the firewall may help convince them to use Web-based productivity tools because it "reduces risk for businesses managing online content."
Just as important, she says, is that Office Web Apps offers this feature and Google Apps and Zoho do not -- but maybe that won't last for long.
"They will probably catch up and offer the same thing soon," says McLeish.