Microsoft's plans to get more aggressive in the world of hosted applications took a big step forward today as the company made a beta version of Office Live available.
While hosted applications aimed at small businesses are nothing new companies such as Salesforce.com, NetSuite, WebEx and a host of others have touted the advantages of software-as-a-service for years this is Microsoft's biggest push. (Although it has offered hosting and Web-based services previously through it Small Business Center, formerly known as bCentral).
Microsoft claims the target audience for the Web-based software is small businesses specifically those with 10 or fewer employees. Redmond says that's because small business have asked for more hosted applications.
Microsoft's competitors claim it's targeting small business because the software giant doesn't want to jeopardize the server and license revenue it receives from larger enterprises for Office applications.
Whatever the motivation, you can test Office Live for yourself starting today. The software service will be available in three virtual packages, according to a statement on Microsoft's Small Business Center Web site.
Microsoft Office Live Basics is a free, ad-supported service designed to help a small business establish an online presence. It includes domain-name registration, Web hosting, site-design tools, analytics, five e-mail accounts and 2GB of storage.
Microsoft Office Live Essentials is designed to extend the free basic services with hosted applications for customer, project and document management. Microsoft says the applications work as standalone products, but are also designed to integrate with Microsoft Office applications.
Microsoft Office Live Collaboration is designed to allow you to have secure Web-based communications among employees, customers, partners and vendors.
According to the statements on Microsoft's Small Business Center, the Office Live offerings come as a response to customer demand for "more options around hosted services to allow them to streamline their business operations without requiring infrastructure investments."
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