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SERVICE: Microsoft Office Live will launch to help Small Businesses attract customers
Posted by Arne Hess - on Tuesday, 31.10.06 - 17:46:20 CET under 01 - General News - Viewed 7937x
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Microsoft Corp. today announced that Microsoft Office Live (http://www.officelive.com ), a set of Internet-based services tailored to the needs of small businesses, will be coming out of beta in the United States Nov. 15. These services are expanding internationally as well and are also scheduled for free beta availability in France, Germany, Japan and the United Kingdom on Nov. 15. Office Live is designed to help small businesses attract new customers, generate repeat business and easily manage their business online by giving them the tools to establish a Web presence for free as well as a variety of easy-to-use and affordable business applications.

More than 160,000 small businesses tested Office Live during the beta program, providing important feedback that Microsoft has incorporated into the upcoming release. New features that will help small businesses with their sales and marketing needs include Office Live adManager Beta; integration with Microsoft Office Accounting Express 2007; enhanced Web design tools and templates; additional storage space; additional company branded E-Mail accounts and calendars; and the ability to chat online via text, voice or mobile phone with employees, customers and colleagues using their own company domain name with Windows Live Messenger. In addition, Office Live Business Contact Manager, a tool to help small companies manage business relationships in an organized and effective way, will be available in subscription-based Office Live offerings.

"Small businesses face the same pressures as large enterprises to continuously improve their offerings, raise their market profile, attract new customers and generate repeat business," said Rajesh Jha, corporate vice president, Microsoft Office Live. "However, they typically lack the in-house IT expertise and dedicated technology budgets of most big companies. Office Live helps small-business owners close that competitive gap by giving them an affordable, comprehensive package that provides everything from Web site design to instant messaging accounts to customer and business contact management, and is customizable by Microsoft partners that can create new and industry-specific solutions."

Small businesses have said they not only want a Web site, but one specifically targeted to their customers. To meet that need, the latest release includes a beta version of Microsoft Office Live adManager Beta, which works with Microsoft adCenter, the underlying service that delivers and places subscribers' keyword ads on Live Search. Microsoft Office Live adManager Beta will help small businesses easily and quickly begin purchasing keywords, optimize their advertising budget, and reduce the time spent managing this process.

Small-business owners also have told Microsoft they want a more affordable means of managing customer and business information in one place. Their feedback directly shaped the creation of Microsoft Office Live Business Contact Manager, which enables a business to organize accounts, contacts and sales opportunities from a single online location. This helps small businesses keep in touch with their customers wherever they do business.

The upcoming release of Office Live provides updated Web site design tools with asynchronous JavaScript and XML (AJAX) technology to allow users to more easily drag and drop content and images into any section of their Web site. It also includes more page templates and the ability to modify and import HTML to create more robust and sophisticated Web sites. For customers with a Web site managed by another provider, Microsoft Office Live further streamlines the process of transferring domain names for greater ease of use. In addition, Office Live Mail lets users manage and access their calendars, contacts and tasks from almost any Web browser and use their Windows Mobile-based device to stay connected to their business and customers, while on the go.

Office Live will help continue to simplify managing a small business and keep it affordable and will build on the positive feedback from beta customers. "I'm saving approximately US$ 1,200 a year by doing my own Web site," said Brenda Derrow, an Office Live customer who manages Sequoia Lodge in Kernville, Calif. "I can use that US$ 1,200 to buy more supplies for my rooms. And believe me, if I can do a Web site, anybody can, because I've had no computer experience. It was very easy to do with Office Live."

Recognizing the important role of partners in addressing the specific needs of small businesses, Office Live, built on Windows SharePoint Services 3.0, provides an open platform on which developers can build customized or industry-specific software applications and deliver services for their customers. Three partners participated in the pilot program and have already developed valuable small-business solutions on the Office Live platform: Qdabra Software, which streamlines business processes for small companies and teams to reduce IT complexity and cost; NPower Network, which provides the nonprofit community with a tool to manage their most important assets: their constituents and contributions; and Dinerware Inc., which delivers best-of-breed restaurant touch-screen systems built on Microsoft technologies. In addition, 75 partners worldwide are participating in the Early Adopter Program, building a wide variety of solutions to help meet the unique needs of small businesses. On Nov. 15 Microsoft will publish a developers guide and other tools to support the partners in developing solutions on the Office Live platform.

To help match the unique and diverse needs of small businesses, Microsoft Office Live is available at three levels of service:

  • Microsoft Office Live Basics is a collection of free services that provide a small business with the core requirements for establishing an online identity. Services include a company domain name; a Web site with 500 MB of storage; advanced site reporting tools; 25 company-branded E-Mail accounts (each with 2 GB of storage) and instant messaging accounts; calendaring through Microsoft Office Live Mail; an easy-to-use, drag-and-drop design tool for creating a compelling, professional-quality Web site; and the Microsoft Office Live adManager Beta for a simple, all-in-one place to manage search advertising campaigns on Windows Live Search.
  • Microsoft Office Live Essentials, offered at US$ 19.95 per month, includes all the features of Office Live Basics and adds two powerful online business applications for helping small businesses better serve their customers and build the kind of loyalty that results in repeat business and referrals. Services include an additional 1 GB of Web site storage, 50 company-branded E-Mail, calendar and instant messaging accounts, and Microsoft Office Live Business Contact Manager and online Workspaces for 10 users with 500 MB of storage. In addition, E-Mail and appointments can be accessed offline with Microsoft Office Outlook and Windows Mobile-powered phones to stay connected while on the go.
  • Microsoft Office Live Premium, the most comprehensive Office Live offering, is US$ 39.95 per month and allows business owners to manage their business online and stay in touch with the business when they are away from the office. Services include all the features of Office Live Basics and Office Live Essentials as well as an additional 2 GB of Web site storage; increased storage of 2 GB for the 50 company-branded E-Mail, calendar and instant messaging accounts; and an increased capacity for 20 additional users and 1 GB of storage for the Workspaces. Office Live Premium also provides a rich set of Internet-based applications to help small-business owners streamline and automate the daily business tasks of managing their customers, projects and documents.

More information on Office Live can be found at http://www.officelive.com

Cheers ~ Arne


 
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