Earlier this week I offered my first take on Microsoft's announcement of its forthcoming Office 365 bundle, which will include Microsoft-hosted versions of SharePoint, Exchange, Office Web Apps, and Lync Server -- plus a new desktop version of Office dubbed Office Professional Plus. My initial reaction was that Office 365 seemed too expensive and, for a cloud offering, too anchored to the desktop.
As it turns out, I was wrong about one important detail: You actually will be able to subscribe to Office 365 small-business edition even if you don't have a locally installed version of Microsoft Office. (The Office 365 website lists Office 2007 SP2 or Office 2010 as a requirement, but what that really means, according to a Microsoft spokesperson, is that the small-business version of Office 365 integrates with those two Office versions only.)
[ Also on InfoWorld: Read Woody Leonard's excellent analysis of why Ray Ozzie left Microsoft. | And check out Neil McAllister's comparative review of "Office suites in the cloud: Microsoft Office Web Apps versus Google Docs and Zoho." ]
So if a small business wanted to, it could decide to adopt Office Web Apps in Office 365 as its primary productivity applications, just as some are opting for Google Apps today.
Microsoft says it still thinks the "vast majority" of Office 365 users will continue to use the desktop version of Office -- in the enterprise edition, the desktop-bound Office Professional Plus is bundled. And the small-business version tops out at 25 seats, so you won't see big businesses trying to save money by downgrading desktop Office users to Office Web Apps.
But the possibility remains that many small businesses -- at least, those that lack Office 2007 or better -- may forget about desktop Office and switch to Office Web Apps and the rest of Office 365 at a total cost of $6 per user per month. That's competitive with Google Apps Premier Edition, which costs $50 per user per year.