Microsoft announced on Tuesday that it will package its cloud-based office services known as "Office 365" and offer a variety of subscription packages for small businesses and enterprises alike. But Microsoft is still offering only a limited Web-based version of Microsoft Office.
Office 365 "brings together Microsoft Office, SharePoint Online, Exchange Online and Lync Online in an always-up-to-date cloud service," Microsoft said. Office 365 will be available shortly in a limited beta program and widely available sometime in 2011.
Customers will be able to get all of their software through subscription-based pricing, but the full version of Office will still require a desktop installation.
Microsoft's only cloud-based version of Office is the Office Web Apps service. While free to consumers, for business use Office Web Apps has to be deployed on a SharePoint server and Microsoft recommends it only as an "online companion" to Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote. The cloud-based version of Office is just for "light editing" and sharing of documents but little more than that, according to Microsoft.
This kind of support lets Google argue that Google Apps is the superior option for customers with small IT departments, since Google offers all of its tools online without requiring installation of on-premise software.
But even with today's announcement, Microsoft did not put everything into the cloud. The business version of Office, Microsoft Office Professional Plus, will remain a desktop-only offering, although it will be integrated with Microsoft's cloud services.