Microsoft announced it will soon release a full lineup of its software products, including the entire Office suite. The software giant expects the weak economy will accelerate growth of the emerging web-based software market:
Stephen Elop, president of Microsoft's business division, is leading the company's entry into the "software as a service" market, which offers programs that are hosted online instead of downloaded to computer hard drives.
By using the Web to host software like Microsoft Office, as well as Exchange e-mail and SharePoint collaborative software, Microsoft customers do not need to spend as much money on equipment and maintenance of computer servers.
"What we think is in five years, 50 percent of the use of Exchange and Sharepoint could be serviced from the cloud," Elop told Reuters in an interview.
"Between now and then, a year or two or whatever, if it's going to be tough economic times, that means we expect quite a lot of movement in that direction, a lot of people taking advantage of that," he added. "I think the economy will help it."
Microsoft's foray into online software services comes amid competition from Google Inc, whose Google Apps provide free Web services including calendar, collaboration, email and messaging software.