Microsoft opens up beta for online Office application

  • Redmond (WA) - In a bid to steal back some of the thunder that Google's online apps have taken, Microsoft has announced it is working on a Web-based extension to its Office software suite.

    Microsoft Office Live Workspace gives users the ability to share, collaborate, and comment on various Word, Excel, Powerpoint, and other files online.

    Each user will receive a unique "workspace", where documents can be uploaded and accessed by other users.  Each workspace can hold up to 250 MB of documents, for free.

    It is all similar to Google Apps, which allows users to create word processor, spreadsheet, and slide presentation documents, and then open them up for outside collaboration.  The main difference is that Google's platform enables users to create documents directly from the Web.  Microsoft Office Live Workspace requires users to own a copy of Microsoft Office.

    Likewise, anyone who wants to make changes to the document will need to open up their own copy of Office and then upload the changes to the user's workspace.  Comments can be attached to a document in the workspace without the need to open up the software, though.

    The service is compatible with Office 2003 and Office 2007.  Additionally, the current service called "Office Live", a set of Web tools for online business management, will be renamed "Office Live Small Business".

    It adds to Microsoft's "Live" brand, which it has been building up quite aggressively in the past year.  The software giant has created integration between e-mail, instant messaging, and online gaming, allowing users to maintain just one account for all these applications.

    Users can sign up to be part of the beta by going to Microsoft's newly minted Office Live website.