Office Live Workspace, plus re-named its Office Live service to Office Live Small Business. Both moves are attempts to complement Microsoft Office, its dominant desktop office suite - rather than replace functionality present in MS Office.Microsoft has today announced a new online office service called
Office Live Workspace will allow users to store, access and share 1,000+ documents in an online workspace. It will also synchronize contact, task, and event lists with Outlook. The service is free and is being marketed as an "online companion to Microsoft Office". It's basically a storage solution with sharing features, intended to allow people to have one central place to store their Microsoft Office files. Certainly there is still no sign of an online version of Microsoft Word (or Excel or Powerpoint for that matter). In that respect, this doesn't challenge Google Apps. Indeed Office Live Workspace reminds me more of services such as Egnyte, which combine online storage with sharing functionality. This is something the many online storage services are also increasingly offering.
Office Live Workspace is initially only available as a limited beta. The use cases offered are everything from work, to study, to home use - but it's clear this isn't seen as an enterprise service.
These announcements are part of Microsoft's continuing quest to offer hybrid Web/desktop office services. But the functionality still pales in comparison with what Google Apps offers - or indeed many small startups such as Zoho and ThinkFree.
It's like a halfway house - and what's more it comes with yet more branding confusion. In a press release, Microsoft Business Division President Jeff Raikes said that over the coming months Microsoft will offer "two key families of service offerings: Live and Online". Mary-Jo Foley points out that "Microsoft is positioning its Microsoft-hosted SharePoint, Exchange and Office Communications Services (which it has now rebranded with as its family of ÄúOffice OnlineÄ? services) as its GAPE competitors." But it seems messy and nowhere near as coherent as Google's online office strategy.
I can't see many Microsoft customers getting excited about Office Live Workspace, given there are many startups offering better solutions - not to mention Google. And positioning this as a "web-based feature" of Microsoft Office makes it even more confusing. Is this what Microsoft's answer to the Web Office is - tacked on features to its all-powerful desktop suite? Given the innovation we've seen in Web Office over the past years by the likes of JotSpot and Writely - who truly extended MS Office with new types of functionality - Workspace is a weak 'me too' offering. Or am I missing something?