Microsoft Nabs Domain

Microsoft has purchased the domain name in a move that may mark another step forward in its plans to launch cloud-based components for the upcoming Office 2010 along with free Web editions of its Office software.

While Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) has not admitted it owns the domain’s rights, a WHOIS query on the domain name confirmed that is now registered to the company. A note posted on the site states that users on the domain are “transitioning” to a different URL.

The story first emerged when tech enthusiast sites DownloadSquad and IStartedSomething, as well as others, spotted the change in the site’s registration on Thursday.

Such a name change would certainly make it easier for users to remember than Office’s current URL — — thus giving Microsoft another competitive advantage over rivals.

That’s become important as Microsoft preps its launch of its Web-based Office software, which will compete with free online productivity suites like Google Apps and Zoho.

Along with the upcoming PC-based version of Office 2010, Microsoft plans to offer lightweight, Web-based versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote. The software will be free to some 400 million Windows Live users, as well as to volume license customers. Because they are Web-based they will support the major browsers, including Internet Explorer, Apple Safari, and Mozilla Firefox.

The Office Web applications are due to begin technical preview testing this month, although Microsoft has not yet pinned down the date.

Microsoft first demonstrated Office Web at last fall’s Professional Developers Conference in Los Angeles. It began a limited alpha test in January.

Additionally, Microsoft just released the first technical preview for Office 2010 last month, and plans a beta test by the end of the year, with delivery in the first half of 2010.

Microsoft spokespeople did not return requests for comment by press time.

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