Worried by the small but growing number of small businesses and consumers switching from Office to less expensive or free online alternatives, such as Google Apps, Microsoft Corp. plans to arm a key cohort of its formidable legion of business partners to help fight the threat posed by so-called Office 2.0 technologies.
Microsoft plans to conduct a yearlong test of a change to a key part of its license for Office 2007 that will, according to multiple sources, enable Web hosting service providers to offer the Office suite via an emerging technology called application streaming.
The sources said Microsoft will make the announcement early next week during its Microsoft Management Summit in Las Vegas.
If successful, the company will likely overcome its long-held fears about hurting its hugely profitable Office business and make the change permanent.
Microsoft "has been sensitive to whether it would cannibalize its own application business," said Neil Gardner, a vice president of marketing at application-streaming software vendor Endeavors Technologies. "They were also sensitive to the piracy side of it, of losing control over distribution."
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