First Office Live Beta Expected Within Days

Microsoft is expected to release the initial set of software services extensions for its flagship Office product any day now.

The Microsoft Office Live beta is expected to go live any day now.

Office Live is not a hosted version of Microsoft Office. Instead, it is a set of software services Microsoft Corp. is developing as extensions to its shrink-wrapped Office product. Microsoft introduced the Office Live concept in November, at the same time as it rolled out its Windows Live strategy. Company officials said at that time to expect a first beta of Office Live in early 2006.

Microsoft sent invitations the first week of January to testers the company had selected to participate in initial Office Live testing, according to the LiveSide Weblog—an independent site dedicated to tracking Microsofts Live efforts. The first Office Live beta is expected to be available for U.S.-based participants running Windows XP and Office 2000 or later versions of Microsofts desktop operating system and Office suite.

"In case you didnt get one, Office Live pre-beta emails were sent out at the end of last week," according to a LiveSide posting by Chris, a U.K.-based student. "Promising a free Web site with your own domain name, free hosting, online business applications, e-mail and more along with easy access to your company e-mail, customer and project information from almost any Internet-connected computer this is one Live service that is definitely not targeted at the home consumer."

Microsoft is pitching Office Live primarily as a small-business play. From the initial descriptions of the service by Office Live team members last year, it sounds as if Microsoft will be repackaging a number of the small-business services the company initially marketed via its bCentral Web site, and later, its Microsoft Small Business Web site, and marketing those as Office Live properties.

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