According to a CRN report, Microsoft has quietly cancelled plans for a project known internally as OfficeLite, which would have combined a subscription-based version of Microsoft Office with MSN 9. The project would have exposed Office information, such as Microsoft Outlook tasks, calendar, and contacts, through the MSN 9 UI, offering consumers and education customers a low-cost alternative to the company's monolithic suite. Office 2003 will likely ship in early June, but MSN 9 won't be ready until the fall, sources tell me.
"The OfficeLite effort has been shelved for the \[Office 2003\] time frame," an internal Microsoft memo reads. "\[We have learned\] several important things about creating nonperpetual versions of Office \[and\] working with MSN." Another memo suggests that Microsoft made the decision to table OfficeLite because the company decided to more heavily promote the low-cost edition of Office for students and teachers, which the company introduced during the Office XP product life cycle.
An early preview of OfficeLite showed deep integration between Office and MSN. Users could access Outlook contacts through a new My Contacts area in MSN that let them share calendars and group contacts in various graphical ways. Dragging a file into a contact sent the file directly to that person by using new peer-to-peer (P2P) technology based on Windows Messenger. And contacts who were members of a Microsoft SharePoint Web site could view collaborated documents they'd accessed recently. Microsoft says that the work on OfficeLite won't be in vain, and the company intends to repurpose much of the technology for future MSN-based subscription services.