Microsoft has made available to a select set of private beta testers new commerce functionality that it plans to add to its Office Live services.
Office Live Store Manager seems to be a new set of features/functionality that Microsoft is planning to add to one or more of its existing Office Live Small Business SKUs. Store Manager is currently in private beta test with a "few of our select small business customers," blogged Microsoft Technical Specialist James Senior.
"The store manager portion of Office Live enables this small business to have an online store tightly incorporated within their website with the minimum of fuss. Prior to this they had integration with Paypal and had some complicated ASP pages to get around the problem of selling online - hardly something a small business wants to be doing! This encapsulates what Microsoft is trying to achieve with Office Live: a one-stop-shop for all online activities for small business following the mantra of easy to use," Senior explained.
One of the testers of Office Live Store Manager, according to Senior's post, is Larouex Gourmet Foods.
Office Live, in spite of its name, is not a Web-based, hosted version of Microsoft Office. Office Live are a set of Web-based add-ons to Microsoft Office and SharePoint aimed at small- to mid-size business customers. In October 2006, Microsoft rolled out its first three Office Live services: Office Live Basics (free and ad-supported); Office Live Essentials ($19.95 a month per company) and Office Live Premium ($39.95 a month per company). (A fourth member of the family, Office Live Collaboration, never made it out the door and remains in beta test.
In July, Microsoft quietly repositioned its existing set of Office Live services as "Office Live Small Business." Microsoft officials have said the company has plans to go both up and down market with Office Live by rolling out more enterprise-focused Office service add-ons, as well as new Office Live services aimed more directly at individual consumers. So far, Microsoft has made no official announcements on either end of that spectrum.
Microsoft has some serious ambitions for Office Live. In July, Microsoft Chief Operating Officer Kevin Turner said:
“We fully believe and expect in two or three years Office Live will be one of the most deployed, most utilized of all the products that we have in the Microsoft portfolio. Certainly it won’t be as big as Windows in a couple of years, but we do believe it will reach our top three or four largest deployed applications that we have around the world."
I've asked Microsoft for more specifics on Office Live Store Manager, including a date when it will be available to a broader audience. Stay tuned.
Update on September 18: A Microsoft spokesperson sent back the following responses to my questions:
"Microsoft Office Live is committed to providing small businesses a single, easy-to-use solution that addresses a range of small business pain points - core IT services, sales and marketing services and productivity services. As we mentioned last fall with our V1.5 announcement, we see e-commerce as a natural addition to our suite of services. Store Manager is currently in a limited beta and we expect it to go live in the coming months."