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Office Live Goes Live

Microsoft will make its promised Office Live betas available on Wednesday. Office Live is parsed into three offerings, a free base-level version supported by advertising, and two for-pay versions that add functionality.

Microsoft plans to make its planned beta versions of Office Live available Wednesday morning.

Windows and Office Live were announced in November, in what was seen as a response to successful software-as-a-service (SaaS) offerings from companies such as Salesforce.com and Google. Windows Live is targeted at consumers, while Office Live is aimed at very small businesses, typically those with 10 or fewer employees.

In addition, at the 3GSM show in Barcelona on Tuesday, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer said the company will enable new Windows Live services that will allow users to do searches, conduct instant messaging chats, and send mail over the Web from "virtually any mobile device."

The Windows Live Client would thus run on mobile handsets running Windows Mobile and other non-Microsoft operating systems.

Microsoft demonstrated both the Live Mobile Search and Windows Live Mail for Mobile, which sahre a common address book with Windows Live services for PCs.

Ballmer also said Office Communicator for Mobile will offer presence, instant messaging and voice capabilities to Outlook and Office. A prototype service now running allows customers to bring content from the PC over-the-air to mobile devices.

The Office Communicator for Mobile should be available for download for Live Communication Server customers in 60 days.

As for Office Live, plans call for three editions: a “Basic” version, a collaboration version and an “Essentials” version.

Office Live Basic is slated to include free services supported by advertising revenue. Users can get free domain name registration and five e-mail accounts--using the Hotmail infrastructure--each with up to 2 Gbytes of storage. Also included is a free Web site with up to 30 Mbytes of storage, a design tool for basic Web site design and Web traffic monitoring tools.

A collaboration version, basically hosted SharePoint, is geared for small businesses with up to 10 users. The service is designed to enable users to set up secure, shared workspaces to work with trusted partners and suppliers. Intended for small businesses that may already have Web presence, this subscription offering provides Web-based business tools for customer, project and sales management, as well as company administration, Microsoft said.

Finally, Office Live Essentials provides the domain name with 50 associated e-mail accounts with 2 Gbytes of storage each, plus a Web site with up to 50 Mbytes of storage. These customers also will get Microsoft FrontPage for more advanced Web site design.

Baris Cetinok, director of product management and marketing for Microsoft's Information Worker Services unit, said there will be a partner play, including opportunities to build custom applications atop Office Live infrastructure. However, Microsoft isn’t ready to talk about it yet, he said.

The collaboration and Essentials versions of Office Live each start at about $29.95 per business per month. All of the Office Live betas are free. The betas will be available in the United States only, with general availability slated for late this year.

This story was updated Tuesday afternoon with details from the 3GSM Conference.

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