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Microsoft originally flagged the launch of a free online offering last year (CDN, Oct. 30), but gave few details.

Yesterday, it fleshed out the news at the opening of its Worldwide Partner Conference in New Orleans. The software giant said Office Web applications would be lightweight, browser-based versions of Word, PowerPoint, Excel and OneNote.

There will also be online “co-authoring” collaboration capabilities in Word, PowerPoint and OneNote.

“We wanted to make sure when we brought applications to the Web we did it in a way that we can really delight customers and not sacrifice quality,” said Office group product manager Chris Bryant.

A Wall Street Journal report said Microsoft is seeking to muscle in on Google’s core market: Internet search advertising.

Microsoft is also working on another project, code-named Gazelle, that is a hybrid operating system and Web browser ­ a potential competitor for the Chrome OS Web-based operating system Google announced earlier this month.

Office Web applications will be available through Windows Live; on-premises for Office annuity customers; and by paid subscription at Microsoft Online Services.

Meanwhile there will be five versions of the conventional Office 2010, with prices yet to be disclosed.

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