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Hotmail co-founder launches Microsoft Office rival

Sabeer Bhatia has launched Live Documents, an online office productivity suite that can also be used as a desktop client to wrap around Microsoft Office programs

One of the co-founders of Hotmail has launched a free, online office productivity suite.

Playing in the same space as both Microsoft Office and Google Docs, Sabeer Bhatia's Live Documents was launched on Wednesday.

Live Documents is a suite of online office applications offering functionality that InstaColl, the company behind the suite, claims is equivalent to Word, Excel and PowerPoint. Built using rich internet applications technologies including Flash and Flex, Live Documents allows users to view and edit documents online within a web browser.

The suite also allows users to manipulate Microsoft Office applications, since it can be used as a desktop client. A Live Documents application embeds collaborative capabilities in Microsoft Office programs and converts the applications into smart clients that can then be connected to the internet. The Live Documents desktop client also allows offline access to documents.

Ironically, Bhatia used some "a very small part of the millions that he received from Microsoft for Hotmail" to fund InstaColl's development efforts, according to the Live Documents website. Microsoft bought Hotmail in 1998 for £281m.