From a Microsoft corporate perspective, this seems like it would be a perfect opportunity to promote Silverlight. As a relatively new platform, Silverlight’s biggest challenge is getting a widespread installed base. There will presumably be millions of people who wish to use the Web version of Office. Requiring them to install Silverlight would widen that base considerably.
It’s like any other “killer app” strategy: regular folks need a real benefit to adopt a new platform. My parents use the Internet because of email, for example. Thus far, Silverlight’s killer apps have been exclusive video content like the Olympics and Netflix.
If millions of new users adopt Silverlight to get Office, that’s big.
Further, from a technical perspective, an application as sophisticated as Office would certainly be easier to develop in C#, and probably more performant.
But Microsoft didn’t choose this route. They went Web-native. I can see why certain folks (like Mozilla and Google) would be thrilled by this. And for an end-user, a no-install approach is arguably a bit easier. Hey, I prefer to keep everything right in the browser, too.
But from MS’ perspective, those seem like small wins. I wonder how those conversations went up in Redmond. Was the VP of Synergy off that day?