As we used to say during my local news days; here's a penetrating look into the obvious.

Microsoft is finally giving out some firm details on its next Office release. The big news, I guess, is that it won't be called Office 14 as widely reported in the past. It will be called Office 2010 and, yes folks, it's coming out next year in, er uh, 2010. More exactly, the folks at the Microsoft mothership in Redmond say it will likely be sometime in the first half of the year.

It is also very likely there will be a leaner web-based version that will be free and ad-supported or without ads and subscription-based. If so, that will surely be an attractive option for consumers, self-employed folks and small business owners who have a hard time choking down the current standard edition price (on the current version, Office 2008) of $400.

If so, it will likely be an attractive strategy for Microsoft to counter Google Docs & Worksheets, a shameless Office knock-off that is offered for free, as well.