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Microsoft Opens Its Office to the Internet

Microsoft today rolled out a new service for its Office suite that adds online collaboration features but still requires documents to be created and edited on the desktop.

Dubbed Office Live Workspace, it provides a Web-based location to store and share documents, giving access to anyone with an Internet hookup. Office Live Workspace works with Word, Excel and PowerPoint documents.

The initial rollout is a beta program in English with limited availability. It will be free to start with, but Microsoft said it may eventually support the offering with advertising, and could add additional features or services for a charge. Microsoft didn't announce when it's expected to be released publicly.

PC and Mac users can access documents stored on Office Live Workspace, which supports both the Internet Explorer and Firefox browsers. Users will need a Windows Live ID and password. Antivirus protection will be provided via Microsoft's Forefront Client Security.

While Microsoft didn't give a size limit on an Office Live Workspace account, it did say there is enough storage to store more than 1,000 documents, "based on the average file size and use of Word, Excel, and PowerPoint by students, work, and home users."

Office Live Workspace doesn't allow documents to be created or edited through a browser, marking a divergent path from one of its main competitors, Google Docs. Google Docs, an online-only service, is created specifically to be used over the Internet, with no software to load on a user's computer. It is also free, although a premium service, Google Apps Premiere Edition (GAPE), is available for $50 per user, per year.

Office Live Workspace is the latest salvo in the Office document wars Microsoft is fighting on a number of fronts. Competitors are trying to cut in on one of Redmond's primary cash cows, and Google Docs recently scored a direct hit when Capgemini, a large consulting firm, announced it would recommend GAPE to its corporate customers.

Microsoft is also scraping to gain standards approval for the format of its Office 2007 documents, Open XML. That would help Office get more acceptance throughout Europe. There, however, Microsoft is fighting uphill, and its initial attempt was recently shot down.

But with the beta launch of Office Live Workspace, Microsoft has taken some of the battle onto its rivals' territory.

About the Author

Keith Ward is editor of Virtualization Review magazine. You can contact Keith at kward@1105media.com.

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