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Microsoft Office gets Live Workspaces

india Updated: May 12, 2008 19:34 IST

Microsoft is pulling up its socks. The tech giant is on the move. Inundated with competition from giants like Google and unknown tech entities springing up vying for a pie where MS Office is the clear leader, Microsoft is leaving no stone unturned to maintain its leadership position. Microsoft’s Office Live Workspaces is a step in that direction. Does Live Workspaces live up to expectations? Will it make any difference to business productivity? What can we expect from Live?

Around two weeks ago Microsoft India formally launched Office Live in India. Internationally in private beta for some time Office Live Workspaces opened up earlier this year. Officially it is still in beta but users can sign up and avail its services. Productivity and software plus services model is what MS usually emphasizes on and Workspaces is targeted in that area.

Workspaces - the good features
There is no cost involved and is absolutely free for users. A freebie from Microsoft is a rarity but guess the current market dynamics do seem to have a taught Microsoft the rules of the emerging market. The interface is clean and easy to understand. The usability factor is absolutely great and interactive. Microsoft says “Store and share documents online. Quick, easy, and free. Password-protected document sharing. No more flash drives or e-mails back and forth. No credit cards, no commitments, no downloads required.” In others words the emphasis is on collaboration.

Says Microsoft India’s Siddharth Mangharam, Group Product Manager, Office Live “We see Office Live Workspaces as an extension of Microsoft Office.” You can save your documents on their hosted platform and access it anywhere with an internet connection and a web browser. Users can also control who can view, edit, or comment on your documents. It’s also great in terms of avoiding confusion caused by multiple versions of a single document.

In terms of collaboration sounds great. Web Notes is another great application with great editing features but with a huge limitation covered in the next paragraph. Besides it also offers users features such as an activity panel, e-mail notifications, multiple file upload, and sharing interface. Microsoft is hoping that Workspaces with its cool set of collaborative communication tool will make information access and sharing easy, time saving and interactive.

Limitations

Now the limitations of Office Live Workspaces. In this day and age Microsoft’s Office Live still doesn’t let you edit or create a document online. Meaning while there is no real shortage of products that provide web based editing Microsoft has completely omitted this area fearing sales of its Office Suite would come down. If you want to edit or create a document you do need to have a Microsoft Office suite installed on your computer.

Microsoft assumes most PC’s do already have an Office Suite installed. Incase you have an Open Office or any other Office Suite other than Microsoft’s installed it cannot be synced with Office Live. Another feature that is quite a nuisance is you cannot save your web notes offline. Microsoft’s engineers probably forgot about the on/offline sync of notes. Or was it intended that web notes be available only on the web?

Shared View
If you are looking for a great tool in terms of collaboration then Live Workspaces definitely isn’t the best and you can get better tools with better features. However what salvages Live Workspaces is its feature of SharedView, an absolutely phenomenal feature that performs great functions. The way Shared View works is you download a small application of around 3mb, login with your Windows Live ID and you are ready to share your entire desktop, web browser or any program application with upto 40 people.

You can share web browser, pictures, even movies (without sound), make collaborative presentations, documents and a lot more. For a small work team it not just means great collaboration it can also mean great control of what your team is doing. Microsoft however insists it isn’t a control but a collaboration tool. SharedView is definitely the best feature in Workspaces and seems aeons ahead of anything close that too free of cost. Says Microsoft’s Siddharth Mangharam “Shared View a tool for collaboration and totally free to users.”

The Last Word
If you already a Microsoft customer using Microsoft Office and want to get better organized a hosted solution to manage your contacts, documents, presentations and more the Office Live Workspaces is a great solution. For the rest there are better options available. However the combo of Shared View in Workspaces does add to its sex appeal and makes it worth a try.

(Puneet Mehrotra writes on technology. www.thebusinessedition.com )