Make that very small businesses. "Office Live is really aimed at U.S. businesses with less than 10 employees," said Dean Nicolls, senior product manager of information workers services at Microsoft. "Office Live is giving them an all-in-one solution to create an online presence -- from creating a Web site to having company branded e-mail and Web site stats, to having their own shared sites and online business applications so they can keep all their information in one place."
Office Live will be available in three versions, all available in final release by the end of year. Office Live Basics, which includes a Web site, domain name, oodles of templates, Web site analytics, and five e-mail accounts, will be advertising-supported and free of charge to customers. Office Live Collaboration includes 20 business applications for managing customers and employees, whereas Office Live Essentials rolls up the functionality of both plus 50 e-mail accounts. Free during beta, final versions of Collaboration and Essentials will go for a monthly subscription fee starting at $29.95.
According to Matt Rosoff, an analyst at Directions on Microsoft, Office Live will compete with Intuit's QuickBase and stands as an important offering for Microsoft going forward.
"They're putting quite a bit of development effort into [Office Live]," Rosoff said. "I think there will be some powerful tools [in Office Live] even if they're not perfectly baked at the time of the beta. I think it will be a serious initiative in the next couple of years."
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