February 15, 2006
@ 05:27 PM

Office Live is now live at http://www.officelive.com. As I mentioned yesterday, our team has been working closely with the folks behind Office Live. This means that I got the hook up with regards to early access to the service. I've heard it's okay to post screenshots so I'll be posting some with my review of the service. There are 3 basic SKUs of the service

  1. Office Live Basics: This service makes it easy for a small business to create and manage its website. It features all the basics you need to create your first Web site including free Web hosting, Web site statistics, a personalized domain name (bring your own domain or get one through Microsoft), and up to 5 e-mail accounts for your domain.

  2. Office Live Collaboration: This service makes it easy to store, share, and manage your everyday business information in one central online location. Users can create any number of password-protected Web sites for collaborating among internal employees and external customers, suppliers, and vendors. The service provides access to business applications for managing one's customer relationships, employees and project management.

  3. Office Live Essentials:  A combination of the Basics and Collaboration SKUs with a few more benefits such as getting 50 email accounts instead of just 5 with your custom domain. 

Office Live is a mix of a number of core services a small business needs to exist today. It gives them a domain registrar, email hosting, internal and external web site hosting, as well as line of business applications all in a single place.

When I tested the service, I got myself an Office Live Essentials account. The sign up steps including choosing a domain name which was automatically registered for me by the service, providing my contact information, entering my credit card information and agreeing to the terms of use. The domain I created was http://www.daresofficelivesite.com/ which may not be available until a few hours after this posting. Below are some screenshots of the service, click the images for larger versions of the screenshots.

Member Center - Overview

Web Site - Overview

Web Site - Page Editor

Business Applications - Dashboard

Users & Accounts

In general I think Microsoft has a winner here. My girlfriend used to be a professional photographer and she definitely could have used a service like Office Live. It definitely hits the sweet spot for small businesses. 

However there is a bunch of work that needs to be done. As you can see from the screenshots, the service provides a lot of functionality and options. I think perhaps too much which could be overwhelming to the target audience of small businesses that are likely too small to even have an IT staff. I found features such as the business dash board a bit overwhelming. Another small gripe is that I couldn't set up email accounts because it kept giving me an 'invalid password' error when I tried to create an email account. I assume this is because I was using a weak password but it didn't say that. That was rather irritating and I gave up trying to create a new email account. Thus I couldn't get a screenshot to confirm that the user interface for the hosted email is that of Windows Live Mail. I know the folks behind Office Live will be eagerly awaiting feedback on their product, so give it a shot

I should probably see about asking some of these folks to start blogging if they haven't already. :)