I blogged about this a few weeks back, but now that it has been released,  I thought I would talk about it again, and hopefully you will gain an idea of how much value this could bring to a small business.

In our last team meeting, my gaffer, Steve Clayton, was talking about Office Live, and how useful it would be in a situation, where, for example, someone is starting a new business, so visits the bank to discuss financial options, and after completing those procedures, the nice business manager at Barclays says "So, you're starting a new business, so it would be a great idea to have a web presence to help drive business, your own domain name, branded emails, the ability to analyse your traffic and specialist applications to manage your business and so on" and the client instantly thinks, "whoa, that sounds great, but it will a) be too expensive, and b) I'm a plumber, it's not totally relevant to me, and I won't have time to set it all up and build it, plus I'm not technical!".

The answer, says the Barclays Business Manager, "is Office Live".

In a nuteshell, Office Live enables you to take advantage of the following features:

  • Your own fully-hosted company website with its own domain name (for example www.mycompanyname.co.uk)
  • Up to 50 company-branded email accounts
  • Easy to use website design tools
  • One central location for all your most important data
  • Secure workspaces online for working with customers, business partners, and employees
  • Straightforward analysis of traffic on your website
  • Specialist applications to help you manage your contacts, tasks, team calendars, projects and much more

So far, nearly 200,000 customers have already participated in the Office Live beta and over 100 partners have agreed to build solutions on the platform.  In addition to the U.S. market, we've launched beta versions of Office Live in France, Germany, U.K. and Japan on November 21st.

How much is this "Office Live" then?  Well, the services range from free, (no typo) to $40 per month, so check out the Office Live site for more information on what you get for your hard-earned.  Readers from the UK should check out the Uk version, over at the UK Office Live site.

The era of software-as-a-service is changing the world in terms of how people build, deploy, consume and pay for software and already, the reviews around Office Live have been extremely positive.  Many Microsoft Partners view Office Live as an opportunity to expand their current offerings and to address a segment for which they previously had no viable solution. The business critical nature of the solutions a Partner can create on Microsoft Office Live provides them with an opportunity to become more strategic to their customers, thus driving longer term relationships and increasing word-of-mouth referrals.  There is also nothing to stop our Partners building on top of Office Live, hence providing an even more tailored solution to customers.  Office Live ultimately helps businesses to become more profitable by removing on site delivery costs and makes it possible for them to focus on providing customized business functionality that is of a high value to the small business.

There has already been abit of press flying around about Office Live, from Personal Computer World, Silicon.com and PC Pro aswell as the good ol' BBC.

Finally, if I could suggest one action, check out the CNBC News Story, as it really does capture the value proposition that Office Live can bring to a small business.

The world is changing...can you afford not to?

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