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Small Business Lives Large

One of the nice things the Web gives small business is the ability to look and act big. Something as seemingly simple as e-mail has changed the way the little guys navigate the economy. With its recently released Office Live, Microsoft is looking to capitalize on small companies' online ambitions with a set of services that will help affordably present and manage their online business.

Despite the name, Microsoft Office Live has nothing to do with Word or PowerPoint for the masses. The subscription-based services address specific business functions to help automate small businesses, providing customers with such things as a company domain name, tools to set up a Web site, corporate-branded e-mail and IM accounts, and online storage. Office Live recently wrapped up a beta test period involving 160,000 customers, from which Microsoft gleaned an enormous amount of feedback.

One Microsoft executive insisted that Live offerings don't conflict with the traditional on-site business software. Instead, the Live services fill small business needs that are distinct from other types of customers' needs.

Three Flavors of Microsoft Office Live

Office Live Basics
Price: Free

Services include: Company domain name, Web site with 500MB storage, site reporting tools, 25 company-branded e-mail accounts (2GB storage each), IM, calendaring and Office Live adManager Beta (to manage search advertising campaigns).

Office Live Essentials
Price: $19.95 per month

Same as Basics, but with two online business applications (Office Live Business Contact Manager and online Workspaces for 10 users), an additional 1GB of Web site storage, 50 company-branded e-mail accounts and offline e-mail access in Outlook.

Office Live Premium
Price: $39.95 per month

Same as Essentials, but with more storage (2GB for Web site, 2GB for e-mail and 1GB for Workspaces), increased capacity for 20 additional users and a set of Internet-based business applications.

"Our fundamental message when it comes to Software as a Service and Live Offerings will be around choice," says Satya Nadella, recently named corporate vice president of the Microsoft Business Solutions Group.

The services are meant to be extensible so IT pros and partners can customize them as needed. To that end, Microsoft published a developers' guide and other tools for the Office Live platform last month.

About the Author

Carolyn April is the executive editor of features for Redmond magazine.

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