Volunteers can get their first taste of Microsoft’s Live software service initiative following Microsoft’s release of a beta version of the Office Live software service that was previewed last October.
The advertising supported beta service will be available free of charge and is initially only available to US businesses, but Microsoft said it plans to make it available internationally later this year. The registration site is at http://www.OfficeLive.com.
The final release is scheduled for late 2006. Live is aimed at small business, with fewer than 10 employees.
The current beta covers three Office Live versions. Microsoft Office Live Basics will enable a small business to establish an online identity through services that supply a company domain name. This includes five 2Gb email accounts using the company domain name, a website with 30Mb of file storage space, and a drag-and-drop design tool for website creation and the Microsoft Office Live Site Reports tool for monitoring and analyzing website traffic.
Microsoft Office Live Collaboration will be a subscription-based service aimed at small businesses with an existing website and focuses on providing internet-based business management tools. The service is based on Microsoft Windows SharePoint Services technology and will provide password-protected online workspaces for intranets and extranets and offer customer management, project management, sales and marketing management, employee management, and company administration capabilities plus password-protected internal shared sites.
Microsoft Office Live Essentials aims to provide the resources and collaboration tools needed to establish and manage a small business online. It includes a company domain name, 50 2Gb email accounts, a website with 50 Mb of file storage space, the web design tool used with Microsoft Office Live Basics, plus Microsoft Office FrontPage support for more advanced web design as well as more advanced website analytics. A set of internet-based applications is also included, to help streamline and automate daily business tasks, such as the management of customers, projects and documents.
When the final releases are launched Live Basics will be advertising supported, and the Collaboration and Essentials versions will be available via paid-for subscriptions. During the beta program all three versions will be available for free, supported by advertising.
Microsoft expects to release the final public versions of all three Microsoft Office Live services in late 2006. Although at this time the beta program is open only to US businesses, Microsoft plans to offer beta programs later this year in international markets.
Microsoft is coming from behind in the software as a services market, which is in a period of change given SAP’s recent launch and Oracle’s acquisition of the Siebel on-demand business as part of its acquisition of the CRM market leader. At the same time, on-demand incumbents and newcomers are having to face up to customer concerns about availability and performance following a series of services outages at Salesforce.com.
It is not bringing on-demand developments to a halt though. Hosted salesforce automation provider Salesnet Inc has just released a new and extended version of its service, adding marketing capabilities for the first time. This includes lead management and campaign management, plus HTML email creation tools and some new features to enable customization of the application.
It is also moving into new and more mainstream markets and plans to go head to head with Salesforce.com where previously it focused on niche areas and the OEMing of its service.