Office Live – Sometime

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Strip away the hype and “Office Live” means very little in the short term for customers.

It’s a catchy title but what does it mean?

Strip away the hype and “Office Live” means very little in the short term for customers.

The announcement of Windows Live and Office Live were little more than the inevitable strategic moves against Google and Yahoo at this stage. It means little to customers until later in 2006 when we start to see some actual products that are relevant to these announcements.

The broad idea is to move into the territory that Google in particular has taken advantage of – web-based services supported by online advertising. Microsoft of course has done this for years with Hotmail, but Google is moving way beyond being just a free email service.

One thing that Microsoft and Google have in common at present is announcements that are long on possibilities and short on realities. As we noted in a previous article, the announcement by Google and Sun had only one tangible change, that the Google toolbar would be available when you download the Java runtime module. Beyond that it’s just a statement that the two companies would look at other possibilities. Microsoft has done the same thing, announced a small move (Windows Live beta site) plus plenty of promises for 2006 and beyond.

You can go to the Windows Live beta site at but there’s very slim pickings there at this time. It’s a paltry portal page that has all the hallmarks of something put together at short notice to make the company announcements look a bit less like hot air.

Office Live looks like it’ll have supplementary services for people who have MS Office installed on the computers. While there are currently no real details we can imagine things like:

  • Mail storage that directly links into Outlook in a better way than the current Hotmail access
  • Incoming and outgoing fax services
  • Links to a simple accounting services
  • Web site hosting
  • Live links to external data (like stock quotes) that can be used directly in your Word or Excel documents.

And doubtless many others. Whatever the services offered are, they will probably have a ‘free’ level of access with some additional paid options. You’ll notice that many of these features are already available to those sufficiently motivated or savvy, so part of Office Live will be making existing possibilities of Office more accessible.

One concern that we’ve always had about these web-based services is the presumption of very reliable and high-speed internet access. That’s a nice theory if you live in an urban area of a ‘developed’ nation with a reasonable income – but the majority of people in the world don’t have those advantages.

Whatever happens in 2006 and beyond – betting against a determined Microsoft is never a wise move. One thing that is a sure bet is that our Office Watch will be keeping a close eye on Office Live and keeping Office Watch readers informed about what happens beyond promises.


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