Microsoft Beta Tests Office Live Services
Microsoft's Office Live online services for small companies officially
entered beta mid-week.
Calling the beta a "cost-free opportunity" to try out Microsoft's
coming Internet-based business services, the company plans to offer Office Live
offerings that will range from free domain names, advertising-supported Web
sites and company e-mail accounts to more comprehensive services that will be
available on a subscription-fee basis.
The offerings are designed to be attractive to companies with 10 or fewer employees
that typically don't have an IT person on staff.
"With Microsoft Office Live, we are making online services available
for small businesses to create an enterprise-like IT infrastructure for them
without the management requirements," said Jeff Raikes, president of the
Microsoft Business Division in a prepared statement. "Our goal is to make
it easy and affordable for small businesses to have a more customizable Internet-based
The first beta offers free versions of all three Office Live versions that
will ultimately be available.
The first tier, called Office Live Basics, will provide users with a collection
of free services (advertising-supported) with the core elements needed for an
online identity, such as a domain name, five e-mail accounts with 2GB of storage
each, a Web site with 30MB of storage, and tools for building, monitoring and
analyzing the site and its traffic.
The second tier, dubbed Office Live Collaboration, is aimed at small companies
that may already have a Web identity. This subscription-based service includes
a set of Internet-based business management tools -- based on Windows SharePoint
Services technologies -- that are managed and maintained by Microsoft. It will
offer small businesses password-protected online workspaces on both intranets
Capabilities to be provided in Collaboration include customer management, project
management, sales and marketing management, employee management, and company
administration, as well as password-protected internal shared sites to facilitate
collaboration among employees, customers, suppliers and other business partners,
according to Microsoft's statement.
Finally, Office Live Essentials is intended to provide a set of collaboration
tools customers can use to establish and manage a small business online. Services
to be provided include a company domain name, 50 e-mail accounts each with 2GB
of storage, and a Web site with 50MB of file storage space. It will also include
the same Web design tool as in Basics and adds Microsoft Office FrontPage support
for advanced Web design, additional Web site analytics, and other Internet-based
applications such as management of customers, projects and documents.
The three services are designed to work independently, according to the company.
Microsoft says it plans to release final versions of the services late this
year but has not yet disclosed pricing. Users who would like to participate
in the beta can do so here.
Stuart J. Johnston has covered technology, especially Microsoft, since February 1988 for InfoWorld, Computerworld, Information Week, and PC World, as well as for Enterprise Developer, XML & Web Services, and .NET magazines.