A year ago, Microsoft's head of Office Live told me that Microsoft planned to extend the Office Live both up and down market. On October 1, Microsoft finally explained how it plans to do this.
Microsoft also is rebranding the growing family of Microsoft-managed/hosted services that it quietly began selling to enterprises with 5,000-plus seats last year as "Office Online" services. (Yes, these are the services that Microsoft began testing with Energizer Holdings in 2005.)
The Microsoft-managed version of Exchange is now known as "Office Exchange Online." The managed version of SharePoint becomes "Office SharePoint Online," and the managed Office Communications Server, "Office Communications Online." As previously acknowledged, Microsoft also is working on a managed business-intelligence service bundle, which one might assume, will be named "Office BI Online" (or something similar), but officials declined to discuss that product when I asked.
(Microsoft is going to rebrand and reposition its Office Online site due to the name choice it has made for its managed services, Rajesh Jha, the Corporate Vice President of Office Online told me late last week. He made it sound like Microsoft was looking for the best way to commercialize some of the templates, clip art and other offerings that are offered for download on the current Office Online site. But Jha said he had nothing new to share on this front yet.)
For home users, students and small-business customers, Microsoft is offering Office Live Workspace, a new service designed to supplement desktop-based productivity software, and to compete directly with Google Docs & Spreadsheets.
"I think it's important to look at the bigger picture with Microsoft Online, Windows Live, and Office Live (now including Office Live Workspaces)," said Peter O'Kelly, an analyst with The Burton Group. "While not directly competitive with all facets of Google Apps today, Microsoft is providing useful 'software plus services' offerings for the 500 million Office users worldwide, and there are still important advantages to using native client applications in many scenarios -- it's not an either/or proposition."