The public beta for Microsoft Office Live Workspace will go live Dec. 10.
The service, which lets customers access, share and collaborate on documents online, was announced Oct. 1, at which time Microsoft said the beta would be released before the end of the year and that the company was accepting registrations from customers who wanted to test the software.
The beta going live "means that all those customers who signed up and were on the wait list can now start using the product," Eric Gilmore, Microsoft's senior product manager for the Office business group, told eWEEK.
The 12 schools that have already set up pilot programs using the alpha code will now also get the new beta service so they can roll out the pilot more broadly to include many more students, Gilmore said.
But while he said the number of people who had signed up for the service "met and exceeded Microsoft's expectations," particularly as the software vendor had done little marketing of this, he declined to give a specific number.
To read about the integration of Office Live Workspace With Live@edu, click here.
"We are building this service to be at Internet scale and at Office scale, meaning hundreds of millions of users potentially. We had an expectation that it would ramp up over time after the initial hit, and we feel good about that," he said. "But if you look at our core audiences, we really think that the value proposition resonates really powerfully with students given the use cases they have and the work they do as well as with those information workers who want access to their data at home and work."
Microsoft has also added a forum to the community site that it launched around Office Live Workspace, which allows the company to have a better conversation with customers, he said.
Asked about the fact that users will not be able to edit the documents they are viewing through a browser unless they have Office installed on their computer, Gilmore said users without Office can still store documents online, preview and comment on them.
However, Microsoft officials believe that doing full-on document editing on the Web is still in its infancy, he said.
"You don't need Office to use this service, but it is optimized for Office users. There are over 500 million people using lots of different versions of Office, and we want to give a great experience across all of those. We support versions all the way from Office 97 to Office 2007 from a document format standpoint, meaning they will be able to preview these documents in a browser," he said.
Click here to read more about Microsoft Office going online.
However, the integration that allows one-click editing in Word or easy storing from the rich client directly to the workspace is only available for Office XP via an add-in known as the Office Live Add-in Toolbar, and Office in 2007, where it is integrated into the Office icon, he said.
While Microsoft Office Live Workspace does not currently include advertising, the plan is to do so going forward, along with offering additional premium services for a fee. "We will figure out what the right business model is over time. We plan to pilot some things and see what works best for us and customers," Gilmore said.
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