Microsoft Opens Online Workspace for Office Users

Yesterday, Microsoft unveiled a public beta version of Office Live Workspace, its online storage and collaboration service with tight ties to the dominant Microsoft Office suite. Office Live Workspace is the second major Office Live service, following the release of what's now called Office Live Small Business; that service debuted almost two years ago.

"Office Live Workspace is the first Office Live service for all Office users," says Microsoft Office Director Kirk Gregersen. "The service also responds to some of the top requests that we've gotten from Office customers, which require a combination of the Web and great integration with Office on the desktop to really solve. The way that Office Live Workspace extends Office on the desktop is a good example of our 'software plus services' approach."

While Microsoft also offers a purely storage-oriented online service called Windows Live SkyDrive, Office Live Workspace builds off of that base with a number of useful features. Users can create workspaces that contain a number of document types, and via direct integration with Microsoft Office applications, can open and save Word documents, Excel spreadsheets, and PowerPoint presentations directly to and from the service. Office Live Workspace also supports notes and lists, and custom list types for tasks, contacts, and events that synchronize automatically with desktop-based versions of Outlook.

For sharing purposes, Office Live Workspace supports document-level and workspace-level sharing with teams of people, along with document versioning and check-out capabilities. Users can also share their entire screen or certain application windows remotely with up 15 users via the bundled ShareView application.

Office Live Workspace is currently available only in English in the US, and Microsoft is slowly allowing users into the program on a first-come, first-serve basis: You can sign up to be invited on the Office Live Workspace Web site. The program will be expanded outside the US and into other languages throughout 2008. If you're interested in more information, I've written a review on the SuperSite for Windows as well.

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