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Going Live: new offerings show MS extending services model

With Windows Live and Office Live Microsoft is extending its software-based services strategy as part of its ongoing efforts to harness new delivery and business models for its software products.

Microsoft this month reviewed new online-based versions of its personal productivity tools. With Windows Live and Office Live the company is extending its software-based services strategy as part of its ongoing efforts to harness new delivery and business models for its software products.

The new services, which are targeted at smaller businesses and consumers, will generate new revenue streams for Microsoft as it plans to sell online subscriptions and advertising.

“These new offerings demonstrate how software is evolving through the power of services in ways that enable more dynamic and relevant experiences for people,” said Microsoft’s chairman Bill Gates.

Windows Live consists of internet-based personal services such as e-mails, blogging and instant messaging.

It will be offered alongside MSN.com and will primarily be delivered free to users and supported by advertising. Subscription and transaction-based services, however, will also be available.

And since Windows Live is available separately from the Windows product line, users can run Windows with or without the Windows Live services, Gates explained.

While Windows Live is built to support consumers, Gates said Office Live is designed to help small companies build an online presence.

Office Live services can be used independently or they can be integrated with Microsoft Office programs including Outlook, Excel, Office Live Meeting and Office Small Business Edition. Over time, the scope of Office Live’s services will expand, according to the company.

“A key objective of Office Live is to provide small businesses with the power to easily and inexpensively manage their business in a way that large enterprises already enjoy today,” said Rajesh Jha, general manager of information worker services at Microsoft.

While Windows Live will be offered globally, the beta version of Office Live will only be offered to selected customers in the US, Microsoft has said.

The first beta will be released early next year. The aim is to offer multiple versions of Office Live, with the most basic package consisting of a domain name, a web site with 30Mbytes of storage and five web e-mail accounts available for free as it is supported via an ad-based model.

More sophisticated packa- ges will also be offered as subscription-based services. The paid versions will include more than 20 business applications to help automate daily business.

Industry watchers have been quick to describe Microsoft’s move as being in response to the rise of internet rivals, such as Google. Microsoft itself has been at pains to downplay this.

“This move is really in response to customer demand,” said Brynjar Skauvik, Microsoft MEA marketing director for its information worker business.

“This has been in our thinking for several years,” he cla-imed, pointing out that the firm does already offer a number of its services online, such as its Update service, as well as MSN.

“What we’re doing here is simply taking that to the next level,” he said.

The Live announcements were made before Microsoft’s la-unch of its SQL Server 2005 database and the giant has a number of major product launches scheduled for next year.

“We are embarking on the richest series of product releases in our company’s 30-year history,” Gates revealed.

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