Users can access an English-language beta version of Microsoft Office Live Workspace from the company's Web site at no charge.
[FONT=geneva,arial,helvetica]By Paul McDougall, InformationWeek
March 4, 2008
Microsoft said Tuesday it has made available for worldwide public testing a hosted version of its widely used Microsoft Office productivity software.
As part of the trial, users can access an English-language beta version of Microsoft Office Live Workspace, as the offering is called, from the company's Web site at no charge. Microsoft for the past several months has conducted a private beta program for Office Live that's drawn more than 100,000 participants, according to the company.
Office Live Workspace lets users store and access Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and other Office applications on the Web through any computer with an Internet connection -- even if the PC isn't running Office on its hard drive.
That means a mobile worker could, say, create a Word document at his or her office, upload it to the service, and then access it later from virtually any PC.
Without Office Live, that same worker would have to carry the file around on a flash device or e-mail it to himself. Still, the document could only be downloaded and opened on a computer running a Word-compatible application.
Office Live could also eliminate the insecure practice -- often used by executives on the go -- of downloading files to a public computer. Office Live users can store more than 1,000 documents on the service and also grant access authorization to their files to business colleagues and other third parties.
Office Live Workspace is part of the software-plus-services strategy that Microsoft unveiled last year. The campaign is meant to bolster the company's presence in the booming Web services market while protecting its multibillion-dollar packaged software franchise.
The effort has seen Microsoft roll out a number of Web services under its Windows Live brand, including an online storage site called SkyDrive and a social networking site called Spaces.
Microsoft's assault on the Web is in no small part a response to advances by archrival Google. In recent months, the search engine company has introduced a host of new online services. Of those, the biggest threat to Microsoft is Google Apps. The offering features free or low-cost versions of Office-style productivity applications that are hosted on the Web.
The advantage of Google's approach is that, unlike Office Live, users don't need to purchase any pricey boxed software for the service to work. The downside is that users for the most part can't get to the applications without an Internet connection.
Microsoft said it plans to roll out Office Live beta programs in languages other than English in the coming weeks.
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