As we've already noted, the big development in Office 2010 is not so much new tools, layouts, etc, but its far greater integration with the cloud.
Microsoft is doing this not just because the technology is there, or to persuade existing Office users to upgrade to new version, but because of the the competition it faces, principally from Google and its Google Docs offering.
Not only is Google undercutting Microsoft on price, with many services available for free, it's responding to the desire for a software-as-a-service (SaaS) model, whereby people pay for software as and when they need it, rather than incurring large upfront costs for a massive suite of products, only some of which they may have regular need of.
While you will still be able to buy Office 2010 as a good old boxed product, there are a growing number of online manifestations of it, offering greater flexibility to the prospective end-user. One such was announced today, with Office now available on the 25 GB of free online storage available to all Windows Live users called SkyDrive, initially only to users in the US, Canada, UK and Ireland.
As well as the peace-of-mind offered by being able to save files to a remote server, and the ability to create Office files via a browser regardless of whether you've actually bought any Office software, Office for SkyDrive gives you the ability to save your Office documents to a public folder, which can then be accessed by anyone, even if they're not on Windows Live.
We had a quick play and were able to upload a Word doc from our PC to Skydrive by selecting it from the site (see image). But we weren't able to push the doc from the beta version of Word 2010 we're using. Furthermore the option of opening in Word a document created in SkyDrive didn't work either. We must assume this is a bug in the beta that will be resolved in the full version.
Another important feature of Office for Skydrive is the ability to access Office docs via your web browser. But, for now at least, Windows Live is only accessible from Internet Explorer or Firefox, so we weren't able to get onto it from our Android-based Motorola Milestone.
If Microsoft really wants to head Google off at the pass with Windows Live we feel it will have to do deals with them and others, such as Apple, RIM, HP, etc, and ensure files stored on SkyDrive can be viewed on any platform and any device.