Microsoft has leapt into the application service provider (ASP) fray with a vengeance, announcing yesterday a new initiative called Microsoft Office Online.
The program aims to deliver Office 2000 over the Internet through Microsoft's bCentral Web portal, which focuses on small and medium businesses.
The online version of Office 2000 will not differ from the traditional desktop offering except in its delivery mechanism.
Included in the package will be Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Access, Publisher, FrontPage and Outlook.
However, Microsoft will partner with other software and service providers in a bid to offer customers a total solution.
"We are moving into the next wave of the Web where software and services are delivered together," said Steven Sinofsky, vice president of Microsoft Office.
Partners such as MTT Mpowered, British Telecommunications, CenterBeam, Equant, Micron Electronics, Qwest Communications International and TeleComputing will combine Office 2000 with offerings such as Internet access, Web site hosting, data storage, networking management, and customer hardware and support. Many of the Office Online partners will also offer additional Microsoft products.
"Our customers want a complete communications and collaboration solution. We will meet this need by offering Office Online, Office Server Extensions, and Exchange in addition to our traditional service offerings," said Lee Wilks, CEO of Qwest.
Sinofsky suggested the ASP concept would most suit remote users isolated from their IT departments or SMEs who want the latest technology but simply can't afford to host it themselves.
The bCentral Web portal was specifically designed with these markets in mind; it attempts to help businesses get started online, promote themselves on the Internet and manage their businesses more effectively.http://www.microsoft.com/office