Microsoft is integrating Office Live Workspace into its new Microsoft Live@edu suite of services for universities, the company announced Oct. 22.
The software maker made the announcement at a symposium at its Redmond, Wash., campus that was attended by more than 400 of its higher education customers.
Microsoft first announced its vision for Office Live Workspace, a Web-based feature of Microsoft Office that lets people access and share documents, earlier this month. The service, part of its software-plus-services strategy, will be available at no charge when released later this year.
The schools do not yet have access to the Office Live Workspace, but have seen demos of the offering and will start getting early access in the coming months, "as were currently evaluating their needs and the environments in which they plan to use Microsoft Office Live Workspace," a Microsoft spokesperson told eWEEK.
Read more here about how Microsoft Office is going online.
The public beta is scheduled for later this year, and those interested in testing the beta code can sign up here.
But there is a catch: Users will not to able to edit the documents they are viewing through a browser unless they have Office installed on their computer.
Users need Microsoft Office to edit Office documents but, if they do not have it installed, they can still view Office documents in a browser [both Internet Explorer and Firefox will be supported] and can comment on them, the spokesperson said.
For users who do have Office installed, when they click to edit a document, it will be downloaded into the version of Office they have on the desktop—Office 2003 and Office 2007 are supported. When changes are made and the document is saved, the changes are automatically saved to the online version of the document, the spokesperson said.
The integration of Office Live Workspace with the Live@edu suite, which was launched in March 2005, will let users upload Microsoft Office documents and give other students and educators permission to collaborate with them.
Scott Barker, IT director for the University of Washington Information School, said the combination of architecture and features "offers a great solution for faculty and students where collaboration on group projects is critical and necessary."
A number of colleges and universities have signed up for the Office Live Workspace University Early Adopter Program.
In addition, the Office Live Workspace offering is another indication of how seriously Microsoft is taking the growing competition in the productivity space as well as the threats posed to its traditional business model by online competitors such as Google, with its Documents and Spreadsheets offerings. IBM has also announced Lotus Symphony, a suite of free software tools for creating and sharing documents, spreadsheets and presentations.
To read more about IBMs free office tools, click here.
In addition to the integration of Office Live Workspace, the new Live@edu program has more than doubled the amount of user e-mail storage space, from 2GB to 5GB, along with up to 1GB of password-protected online storage space, automatic e-mail reply, and IP address whitelisting, which helps stop e-mails sent from university mail servers from getting caught in spam filters, Microsoft officials said.
More than 400 schools from more than 30 countries now use the Live@edu suite.
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