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Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Solution Providers: Microsoft Office Live May Take Over Web Hosting Market

Solution providers providing web hosting services for small businesses may have to look for other tasks to do if Microsoft’s latest product, Office Live, takes off as expected. Microsoft’s latest attempt at entering the managed services industry is a varied combination of interesting features that will appeal to most small businesses.

Microsoft will launch the Office Live product line in three forms: Office Live Basic, Office Live Collaboration and Office Live Essentials. The completely free Office Live Basic gives clients a domain name, simple design tools, five email accounts and reports on website traffic. Solutions providers that typically charge for these services will be most threatened by this package. It also will affect the sales of those that resell website hosting packages from major companies such as 1&1 Internet and others.

Test center engineers used the Basic package of Office Live to create a website and were amazed with the user friendliness of the product. It gave them the ability to create a very basic website and set up email accounts in a matter of minutes.

Office Live Basic is not totally perfect, however; the design tools provided only run through Explorer 5.5 and are limited. Those looking to create complex websites with any sort of finer detail will not be satisfied by this package. Luckily, a majority of small business owners will find that Office Live serves them well, particularly if they are just looking to create a calling card for themselves or create a static website.

Office Live Essentials, on the other hand, takes the program a step further and offers expanded features and tools along with Microsoft FrontPage support. Businesses that typically would hire a website designer to complete these tasks will find they no longer need one. Solution providers can use this to their advantage by offering affordable support. Similarly, they can use free hosting as a way to sell setup and training services for Office Live Basic.

A broadband connection along with a local copy of Microsoft Office is necessary to run all the packages, and makes syncing Outlook with the contact manager and project manager provided simple.

Office Live Collaboration gives users basic CRM and shared workspace capabilities to the mix and is free during the beta testing phase. The online workspace helps users share information and expertise with clients and others in the field.

Although many of the features of Office Live are easy to use and quite threatening for many solution providers, most small business owners will either need to have great technical skills or help to use the products. Microsoft is hoping the beta testing phase will end by the fourth quarter of this year.

Blogged By: Computer Consulting 101 Professional Kit