IBM, Google Chase Microsoft With Hosted Services

And Microsoft responds to the call for Web-based applications.

Everyone is going after Microsoft Office these days.

IBM recently has spun out a free, standalone suite of productivity software included in the latest version of Lotus Notes.

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At about the same time, Google announced plans to add a presentation application to Google Docs, its hosted, software-as-a-service (SaaS) suite of collaboration and communications tools.

In addition to Symphony, IBM unveiled Lotus Notes as a hosted service meant for the small- to midsize business market.

Rebecca Wettemann, an analyst with Nucleus Research, estimates that Google Docs’ presentation application has about 60 percent of the features in Microsoft’s PowerPoint. Unlike PowerPoint, however, Google’s suite is hosted; Microsoft’s PowerPoint is packaged software designed to be installed on the user’s computer.

Microsoft, meanwhile, is responding to the demand for Web-based apps by expanding its Web-based offerings. In late September, Microsoft announced Office Live Workspace, now in beta testing and open to anyone who registers. This lets users save more than 1,000 Office documents to one place and access them through the Web. It also allows them to share them with others in a password-protected, invitation-only online workspace.

If users want to edit their documents, they will have to open them using an installed copy of Microsoft Office. Other people who don’t have a desktop version of Office can still view and comment on other people’s documents through a browser.

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