Microsoft Office Live migration is adding insult to injury

On January 29, Microsoft posted on the Office Live blog a status update on its plan to transition nearly 200,000 beta testers to the final version of Office Live. The news isn't good
Written by Mary Jo Foley, Senior Contributing Editor

On January 25, my ZDNet blogging colleague Phil Wainewright noted that Microsoft had left in limbo more than 190,000 Office Live beta testers since November 2006, when Microsoft ended the beta for its small-business services offering.

On January 29, Microsoft posted to the Office Live blog a status update re: the migration. The news isn't good.

Office Live logoBeta testers are still potentially "months" away from being migrated to the final version of their Office Live services. Functionality like backup and restore isn't going to work until their accounts are migrated. And Microsoft will give testers only a 24-hour heads-up when they are set to be migrated. During that 24-hour period, users won't be able to make changes to their Office Live sites.

Here's part of the January 29 note to testers:

"Yes, we have started upgrading our Microsoft Office Live Beta customers to the latest version of Microsoft Office Live. "Microsoft Office Live team has been working really hard to upgrade our customers who joined Microsoft Office Live during our beta program to the latest version of Office Live. We understand that many of you are eager to try out the features in the new version. Our goal is to upgrade our Office Live Beta customers to the latest release in the most reliable way.

"Over the next few months, you will receive e-mails at your Microsoft Office Live e-mail account informing you about the time of your account upgrade and the details about the process.

"You can continue to use your existing Microsoft Office Live Beta account fully till the time of the move."

What the heck is the hold-up? I asked Microsoft's Office Live team and got no explanation. But on the Office Live questions and answers page, there's an attempt at a justification:

"We are currently testing account transfer processes in order to identify any potential issues before moving customer accounts. We anticipate moving customer accounts over to the new release of Microsoft Office Live in the late January - early February time frame. Once we begin, we plan on moving beta customer accounts over in batches, a process which could take a few months."

(Wouldn't it seem logical to test the account-transfer processes before closing out the beta? Just wondering ….)

Another Office Live gotcha that will become more obvious as the company transitions customers from beta to final involves the changes Microsoft made to the planned Office Live SKU line-up. Back in November, Microsoft officials told me that a previously unannounced SKU, Office Live Essentials, would take the place of Office Live Collaboration.

However, according to an updated Office Live pricing chart, it looks, instead, as if Office Live Collaboration is still on the books. Instead, Microsoft is planning to move automatically its Office Live Essentials customers to the pricier Office Live Premium SKU.

Microsoft is referring to Office Live Premium as the former "Office Live Essentials beta." Office Live Essentials was priced at $19.95 per month; Office Live Premium is $39.95 per month. The fine print:

"If you are an Office Live Essentials subscriber, you will automatically be moved to the new Office Live Premium service. This will allow you to retain the online Business Applications that were included in the Office Live Essentials Beta. Once you have been successfully moved to the new Office Live you will be need to agree to the new service agreement upon signing in to regain access to your account. Your credit card will be charged $39.95 for the first month's subscription. You have 30 days to decide whether you want to continue with Office Live Premium. If you switch to another Microsoft Office Live offering or cancel within that 30 days, we will credit the full $39.95 back to your credit card."

I've received a few e-mails from Office Live testers over the last few months. None of those writing in has had good experiences with Microsoft's first-generation of Office Live services. This slow and complicated migration process is only adding insult to injury.

Any Office Live testers out there who aren't running into problems? 

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