Microsoft is going to release a web-based version of Office.

June 2, 2008

How? Using Silverlight.

Here’s the strategy as I see it.

First, the underlying Silverlight technologies (XAML and .NET) are encouraging client-side Windows developers to think beyond boring forms apps and delve into the wonderful world of vector graphics with 3D, sliding reflective surfaces. In short, Microsoft is encouraging developers to use the power of the client-side to ensure that Windows apps to continue to make web-apps look like boring documents.

Second, having raised the bar on client-side user experiences, the Silverlight runtime enables developers to maintain that high bar of multimedia user experience in the browser. But Silverlight is not like flash. Developers can use the exact same development assets, metaphors and tools they know and love. Objects, Controls, Visual Studio and more. Users will come to expect web-based experiences that match their newly enhanced client-side ones.

Third, if Silverlight makes it possible to essentially deploy client-side style applications through the browser, which Microsoft product can now become truly web enabled?

You guessed it. Office.

Silverlight represents a way for Microsoft to not just complete in the online office space, but blow it out of the water with a product that is as good (or better) than its client-side counterpart. There was no way Microsoft was going to bet their web-based application strategy on Flash or try to hack together an Ajax word processor. Silverlight, and its true Object Orientated .NET foundation, are a perfect platform for the web-enablement of their traditionally client-side suite.

Fourth, Silverlight is positioned as the new application platform. It exists in places Microsoft has never existed before. On Nokia phones (the land of Symbian), Linux workstations and OSX. Even iPhone could conceivably run Silverlight since it runs the full fledged Safari browser. And now there is an announcement that Silverlight will be shipped with millions of HP computers.

With Silverlight now coming out on Nokia phones, delivered as part of the Olympics coverage and embedded throughout MS properties and content deals popping up everywhere, Microsoft is gaining enormous distribution potential. If they can somehow skirt the anti-trust issues, they could even bundle it with IE8.

Silverlight is a critical and masterful piece of technology and strategy from the Redmond giant. It allows them to leverage their tools and technologies from the client, raise the bar on web-based experiences, deploy their client-side apps through a browser and broaden their platform reach into every device and screen in a user’s life.

13 Responses to “Microsoft is going to release a web-based version of Office.”

  1. Have you seen Buzzword?

    Totally do-able. Not sure if you could charge money for it, though…

  2. Bob Walsh Says:

    Excellent post. It’s really hard for most web people to get just how bad/limiting what we got now is – and just how blowout Silverlight might just be.

    Two tastes – – an AIR app, and the Silverlight app,

  3. […] reading and stumbled across this opinion-editorial piece by writer Chris Saad at his personal blog Paying Attention. Though a bit off-topic, let me take this moment to say that some of the best speculations and […]

  4. Martin Wells Says:

    Couldn’t agree more. And it’s strikingly similar to google longer term strategy (be the cloud, monetize the rain).

    Silverlight + Live = Windows in the Cloud

  5. Abdurahman Says:

    Well, you are inspiring me to study about this. 🙂

    Thanks for the idea, maybe i will write it on my next post..

  6. hmmm Says:

    It would be a no brainer if M$ doesn’t have a desktop Office suite. Now they not only have it but also count on it to be a cash-cow. It’s a big dilemma, I don’t know how they’d get out of it.

  7. Stephane Rodriguez Says:


    At best, it would be an Office-like application running in a browser window, not a web version of Office. But for this to be called that way, it would have to read/write Office file formats. That means years of work. And even worse, that means redo all the work that third parties have done already (zoho, thinkoffice, google docs, …)

    When that is done, there is the attention to the details. Microsoft usually derails their competitors by saying things like “oh, you can’t be possibly using (insert competitor name here), it does not fully implement our file formats”. I fail to understand how that logic would not also apply to a simple Office-like application running in a browser. A good time to learn if Microsoft were being hypocrites.

  8. Sakui Says:

    I’m sorry, no offense, but I like OpenOffice with windows xp or Openoffice/Koffice with Kubuntu.

    I will not bash Microsoft down, but I have a choice not to use their products. Other users should do the same. You are not *required* to use M$’s products.

    Stop feeding the worm, it will die.

  9. towner Says:

    I totally agree with the move to web-based content server for these simple reasons: The control of the updates to the product, in so many ways, is kept under controlled. Eliminates the needless call in from user who are clueless. Second, I see it as a secure method of monitoring those who may try to hack or modify the program. Those days will be gone as these folks get permanently barred from the use of these products.(It’s tandem to a digital death sentences)

  10. Brudinie Says:

    Microsoft have an operating system agenda. Therefore, they will never develop a truly cross-platform version of silverlight. Flash will run on more platforms because Adobe doesn’t have an os-agenda.

    If you are quite happy for Microsoft to keep their monopoly alive then I feel sorry for you. I tend to find that the M$ silversh1te fan boys are the kind of people who don’t take web standards seriously and also browse with IE6 or IE7 (sad). M$ sliversh1te fan boys would love it to be pushed out to all users via windows update (regardless of the anti-trust implications). You want this because you are too lazy to learn how to be a WEB developer- instead you want to be a M$ developer and turn the internet into a M$ platform.

    Feeding monopolies is wrong- end of story.

  11. David Hanson Says:

    Brudinie – Your last statement is missing the point of what the future of cloud services will be. In the future you operating system is likely to do very little and instead all your apps/data will be delivered via the cloud.

    Therefore Microsoft are fully aware that making Silverlight ubiquitous is vitally important. Expect to see it on many many different platforms.

  12. brudinie Says:

    David Hanson – you are absolutely wrong.
    I use Ubuntu and I can’t use ITV player.
    I can’t use it because it is powered by Silverlight and Moonlight will always be 1.5 versions behind Silverlight.
    This is the situation you end up in when Microsoft dictate the standards of a pseudo web technology. They have done nothing except demonstrate an OS agenda throughout their history and you have to be totally blind to think that they don’t have one behind Silverlight.
    Cloud services don’t need Silverlight. HTML 5 and JIT compilers for javascript will completely negate the need for Silverlight.

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