...and then progress dictated that all things need to be accessible online, so Microsoft (MSFT) created Office Live - a suite of services for small businesses.
Virtual Office
Image courtesy www.di.net

Now unlike what the name suggests, this is NOT an online version of Microsoft's suite of office software such as Word, Excel, PowerPoint, etc, but instead some various services being provided by Microsoft.  Services such as Contact Manager, Document Manager, Workspaces and Project Manager.

Contact Manager allows you to do such things as provide a single view of customers and prospective customers, track contact with customers, check account status and sales opportunities from any location with a Web browser, and send automated "triggered" emails specific to various events such as new sales leads, etc.

Document Manager allows you to store important company documents in one central location, access them from the web, and provide an online space to employees and employers alike where they can review and work together on these documents.

Workspaces is an online space where you can easily allow those you've granted access to pull information and files as needed instead of pushing the information out through emails.  There are also pre-designed templates to create workspaces specifically for different needs.

Project Manager is for planning, tracking, and updating project progress from a central and shared location.  It allows for the assigning of tasks and milestones and tracking their progress.

All in all, this is an interesting online offering with the potential to become something quite as business-integrated as the Microsoft Office Suite of software products.  Apparently, it is also browser-agnostic, so whether you are an Internet Explorer of FireFox user, you should be able to take advantage of Microsoft Office Live.  PC or Mac, you should be good to go as long as you have an Internet connection.

Now I've read some reviews on the new Microsoft offering, and the first statement I read was probably the most obvious.  Office Live is an unfortunate name choice since it has little to do with Microsoft Office Software Suite, however, I personally DO love the fact that they are adding Live to all things Internet.  I think it's a great branding opportunity and a plan well thought through.  (In fact, in about 20 years, Live Search MAY be the verb that overtakes the verb Google!  Go ahead and give it a try..."I'm gonna go and live search what a googol is!)

More of what I've read about Office Live states that the elements are of uneven quality and not as well integrated as they should be.  In fact, it has been my own experience (and it is currently only in beta, so I'm sure that it will get better...) that online space does not allow for the creation or the upload of folders, so it is very difficult to organize things in their own little dedicated slots.  I'm pretty confident that this will change with time and demand.  In fact, I'm sure that the entire Office Live offering will become much more robust with time and demand (spelled C-O-M-P-E-T-I-T-I-O-N).  Let's not forget that as the office becomes more virtual, the searches for new revenue potentials become more solid and the battle for dominance in that arena becomes proportionately heightened. 

Go and check it out and let me know what you think of it!

The Doug

aka Doug Gebhardt