I was quoted in an IDG InfoWorld story, entitled Gates, Ozzie seen unveiling hosted services next week:

“Some prominent Microsoft watchers, such as Richard MacManus, also have suggested a hosted version of Microsoft Office may be in the works. In his Web log, Web 2.0 Explorer, freelance Web analyst and writer MacManus on Sept. 28 outlined Web-based productivity suites from smaller vendors and predicted that Microsoft would eventually come out with its own.

“The time for the Web-based office will come, mark my words,” MacManus wrote. “When broadband is ubiquitous, web functionality is richer, issues of security and reliability have been put to rest, and most importantly of all — when corporates are ready to make the jump. It may be five to 10 years down the track, it may be longer.”

MacManus, who writes from Wellington, New Zealand, did not respond to a request for an interview Friday.”

It’s a good representation of my thoughts on the subject, however unfortunately my actual email response to IDG didn’t make it in time for publication. So by the power of blogs, I present to you now some further thoughts on the topic. These were formed in my recentposts and improved by reader comments (again, the magic of blogs):

I’m sure Bill and Ray will discuss their ‘software as a service’ strategy, as Gates has talked about it a lot recently – and that’s basically Ray Ozzie’s background (with Groove).

I don’t see a web-based Office suite *replacing* the desktop suite, at least for the foreseeable future. I think it’ll be an extra product offering and they’ll offer hybrid versions (mixing and matching desktop with web-based).

An example of a benefit for customers is it would enable them to collaborate better with office colleagues. For example creating a document collaboratively, as a group, with the document residing on the web server and version control taken care of.

Another benefit is that a hosted solution would be a kind of extension of the IT outsourcing business model that is prevalent these days – if MS or an approved partner hosted Office toolsets, then that’s one less IT toolset to administer.

Also a web-based office could be a good product for developing countries, which may be looking for more cost-efficient solutions than the desktop MS Office.

Web-based Office may ultimately be a strategy for Microsoft to compete with Open Source office software – and the rumoured Google Office.