Whats Next for Office Live?

Microsoft still is on track to ship the final version of its first Office Live services before the end of this year. Meanwhile, the company is planning for new services for consumers and larger businesses. (Microsoft Watch)

Microsofts first set of Office Live services, due out by year-end, is aimed squarely at small businesses. But Microsoft has bigger – and smaller – plans for its software-service add-ons.

Microsoft is working on plans to create new Office Live packages that will appeal to individual consumers, as well as to work-groups within larger companies, said Rajesh Jha, corporate vice president of Office Live.

Office Live is a family of services designed to complement Microsoft Office, the same way that the growing stable of Windows Live services will extend Microsoft Windows. The first round of Office Live services will include a free Office Live Basics offering; and paid, subscription-based Office Live Collaboration and Office Live Essentials SKUs.

Jha – following a promotion in late July – now reports directly to Microsoft Business Division boss Jeff Raikes. Prior to helping form the Office Live team 19 months ago, Jha worked on the Microsoft Works, multimedia, NetDocs and InfoPath teams.

(NetDocs a Web-based suite of office applications, was Microsofts first software-as-a-service initiative, which the company killed in the earlier part of this decade before launching it publicly.)

Microsoft launched the Office Live beta in the U.S. in February 2006. There were some rough spots. Some testers complained of less-than-smooth conversions from their existing domain providers to Microsoft. Others couldnt find some of the basic services, such as free e-mail accounts, that were built into the offerings. Jha acknowledged that Microsoft received similar feedback.

"In the first month, we saw a lot of that (conversion trouble) happening," he said.

But Microsoft has made adjustments for that and other issues in regular refreshes of the Live code, Jha said. And the final 1.0 release, for North American customers, is on track to go live before the end of calendar 2006, Jha said. In Q4 of this year, Microsoft also plans to commence more Office Live betas in Germany, France, Japan and the UK.

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