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Microsoft Posts Office Live Workspace Beta

Microsoft on Monday posted a "public" beta of Office Live Workspace, cloud-based functions that it said complement its on-premise Office franchise.

The beta is available to pre-registered users.

The company line is that Workspace "provides an easy way for people to save their Office documents and other files to the Web, and then to share their work and collaborate with others," said Kirk Gregersen, Office director of consumer and small business product management in a posted Q&A.

Microsoft has posted an array of Office-labeled capabilities as part of its "software plus services" Live portfolio. Many are responses to "cloud-based" offerings available from Google, Zoho and others. A good list of the Live offerings is available on LiveSide.

With this beta, Microsoft is starting to put some meat around the bones of its Office Live promises from two years ago.

The prospect of Microsoft-hosted applications and functionality makes some channel partners nervous. What do they sell in this world of online delivery? But Microsoft has said explicitly that it must offer software, services or a combination of both as customer demands dictate.

In the Q&A, Gregersen acknowledges that there is "significant interest from people who’d like to use Office Live Workspace at work", so corporate developers need to keep an eye on what’s coming in through the firewall. Of course, he said most of that corporate demand will come from people who "work with Office, collaborate frequently on teams and work with partners outside the corporate network."

That may be true, but there are also shops that have opted not to update Office 2003 or Office XP and are using less pricey (even free) productivity tools from Google, Zoho or others. If that trend reaches critical mass, Microsoft may have some tough decisions to make.

About the Author

Barbara Darrow is Industry Editor for Redmond Developer News, Redmond magazine and Redmond Channel Partner. She has covered technology and business issues for 20 years.

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