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Online Office Suites Part 4: Microsoft Office Live Beta

Microsoft has obviously felt pressure from all the online office suites out there in the cloud.  Last year the Redmond company launched Microsoft Office Live Beta to get their foot in the door. But why should Microsoft bother about small-time cloud applications when they have by far the largest market share with in the business application segment? And making tons of money?

The answer is really that the future of software will be in the cloud, client installed applications such as Office 2007 will not be as popular or frequently used as today.  Right now cloud based applications are usually used by small businesses and individuals; they are also often tailored for those particular groups.

Microsoft Office Live Beta is no exception, when you register with the Beta-program you get the basics; Word, Excel and PowerPoint. The Office Live interface resembles a lot of other Microsoft online applications, it is easy to work with and the interface is after all something you recognize. The concept is that you create a workspace, add or create documents and then share it with friends or colleges. That is basically how all other online collaboration apps work.

Editing a document in Google Docs or Zoho is easy,  you do it in your web-browser from any computer in the world. To my surprise Microsoft Office Live works differently, first of all you have to download a setup file, which renders it useless in public environments. Then you have to go through an installation that requires you to restart your computer. It is a long way from the simplicity in Zoho.

After the restart you are good to go, but documents can only be edited in their native applications. It means that you will need Office installed and when you open a document from Office Live it will launch Microsoft Office on your desktop. I like Microsoft Office 2007, but I think the whole point of office suites in the cloud where the ability to edit the documents from any computer anywhere.  Redmond does not seem think so, their vision of cloud computing is collaboration. So what Office Live adds to Office 2007 is the ability for other users to comment or view your documents.

Office Live is very simple and it works great as a collaboration tool for Office users. But it can’t live up to the competition since it is not possible to edit documents in the web-browser, probably because Microsoft operate under the illusion that they are defending their Office market by forcing customers to buy a copy of Office.

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