Microsoft Offers Hosted Office 2000

Making good on its promise to participate in the application service provider (ASP) revolution, Microsoft, along with several business partners, will offer Office Online, a hosted version of Office 2000. The ASP model, which differs significantly from the traditional locally based application model and the thin-client model, provides users with server-based applications over Internet connections. In the traditional model, of course, you install an application locally on your desktop machine. In the thin-client model, another server-based application solution, the application resides on a server on the same network as the client. Let's say Barrie is an employee at a company called Killer Apps. In the thin-client model, Barrie uses his desktop client to connect to a Killer Apps server that hosts the applications. The ASP model moves the application to a remote server. In the ASP model, Barrie won't find the applications anywhere on the local network; instead, he accesses the Internet and connects to an offsite ASP that hosts the applications he wants to use. The difference is one of management. In the traditional model, users have to manage applications or technical staff have to make the rounds and service each desktop. In the thin-client model, a technical person can simply manage applications on a per-server basis, radically reducing workload. In the ASP model, a company outsources its application management work to another company that manages applications for several other companies. Microsoft's earlier version of its office productivity software suite, Office 97, was thin-client capable. Companies could deploy it over a corporate intranet. With its latest version, Microsoft has taken the next step and specifically readied Office 2000 for the ASP model. Not only is Office 2000 ready for ASP hosting, but Microsoft is doing the hosting itself with Microsoft Office Online, which the company recently announced. As Microsoft explains it, "This solution may appeal to certain customers, such as users at branch offices who lack onsite IT support, and small- and medium-sized businesses that find application outsourcing more cost-effective and want to access the latest technology." While most customers will continue to install Office locally on standard PCs, Microsoft says that Office Online will, over the next few years, give users with certain computing needs with a new option for accessing Office applications and services. Office Online will include the complete suite of Office application software, including Word, Excel, Access, FrontPage, and PowerPoint. Office Online is available to users running Windows or Windows CE OSs through Windows NT Server 4.0, Terminal Services Edition (TSE) or Windows 2000 Server (Win2K Server) Terminal Services. Microsoft expects to make Office Online available by the end of the year, and broadly available next year.

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