Microsoft has been experimenting with online productivity suites for a while, but the company is finally ready to bring its money-making Office franchise to the cloud, in an effort to fend off the challenge of Google Docs and others. Office Web, as it is being called, is expected to launch simultaneously with the next generation of Office, code-named “Office 14,” late next year.

Office Web will include lightweight versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint and the OneNote collaboration program. Of course, the suite will not be offered for free, but interestingly enough Microsoft said it was toying with the idea of making both an annual subscription based version of Office Web and an ad-supported free edition which could open up the suite to the masses.

The move, though a tad late, comes as no real surprise given the company’s ongoing efforts to shift more resources to web-based offerings.