Microsoft Office Live goes into Beta

Microsoft Office Live went into beta today. The service was first revealed at a Microsoft event last fall – you can see my post about it here.

This is not an online version of Microsoft Office. It is a set of online tools for businesses to help them have a web and email presence at a very low cost (starting at free with ad support). The core tools are a free non-microsoft domain name, website and up to 50 email accounts with 2 GB of storage each.

For a small company needing a informational website, it will be great. Given that the domain name, website building, hosting and email will all be free, this will be very attractive to a small business.

For customers needing more, Microsoft will offer a suite of additional productivity applications – 22 in all were announced last fall. They will also support third party applications – ADP’s payroll software was shown integrated into Office Live. A set of APIs will be available for third parties to add their application functionality into Office Live.

Among the additional applications is an office document collaboration tool. You can share an office document real time with others, allowing them to view and edit it. Impressive.

Office Live should become a starting point for small businesses wanting a web presence and a general platform to run their business operations.

If you are interested in participating in the beta, sign up at the main Office Live site. It is currently only open to U.S. businesses – the full service will launch later this year.