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February 15, 2006

Microsoft relaunches bCentral, calls it Office Live

Posted by David Hunter at 12:18 PM ET.

Press release:

Sept. 23, 1999 — Microsoft Corp. today announced the launch of Microsoft® bCentral, a new portal created specifically to meet the needs of small and growing companies. Microsoft bCentral provides a comprehensive and integrated suite of services to help growing companies leverage the Internet to improve their business. The site delivers services in three key areas: getting a business started online by connecting to the Web and building a Web site; promoting and marketing online to reach new customers; and managing a business more effectively. A beta version of the new site will be available in the United States beginning Sept. 30, 1999, at http://www.bCentral.com/ .

Change the menu a little and call it Office Live and you have today’s announcement:

Feb. 15, 2006 — Microsoft Corp. today announced the beta availability of Microsoft® Office Live (http://www.OfficeLive.com), offering small-business customers a cost-free opportunity to experience the company’s new Internet-based software services firsthand. A milestone for the online services previewed last fall, Microsoft Office Live combines the power of software and services to deliver rich and seamless experiences to small companies that want a presence online.

Microsoft Office Live helps lower the barriers to doing business online by offering small companies a set of Internet-based business services. Designed for ease of use and affordability, the online services are designed to give small businesses the same advantages as larger enterprises by getting them up and running on the Internet quickly, easily and inexpensively.

There were no surprises from the various “preannouncements” yesterday or even from the original Office Live announcement. Office Live provides a two tiered package of Web hosting and email with one level free and ad supported. There is also an “intranet replacement” collaboration package based on Windows SharePoint Services for SMBs who already have their own external web sites. All are free during the beta.

So what’s with the Office moniker? There had been some expectations, despite all the clues to the contrary, that there were to be online versions of at least some of the Office products. Those hopes were dashed. Microsoft’s Robert Scoble:

Office Live isn’t what you think it is. It wasn’t what I thought it was (I was thinking it’d be an internet version of the Office Suite like PowerPoint, Excel, Word). It’s not. Get that out of your mind. And damn the marketers who are extending the Office brand. We love brand extension here, but that’s another debate for another day.

The use of “Office” in “Office Live” apparently connotes business usage, and that’s it. Jupiter Research’s Joe Wilcox:

Office Live absolutely is not a hosted version of Microsoft Office. People have asked me if Microsoft is hosting Office applications or would do so in the future. Answers are no and highly unlikely. I don’t expect Microsoft to offer a hosted version of Office as part of Office Live. Ever.

So I guess we take it for what it is. There may well be a play in the hosted “intranet replacement” offering if they roll out some useful applications, but that’s a story we heard about the now defunct bCentral too (e.g. [1], [2]). Presumably, Microsoft thinks they’ll have more luck this time around, but it’s not clear why.



Filed under Beta and CTP, OS - Server, Office Live, Windows SharePoint Services

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8 Responses to “Microsoft relaunches bCentral, calls it Office Live”

  1. Dare Obasanjo aka Carnage4Life Says:

    David Hunter on Office Live

  2. Microsoft News Tracker » Office 12 christened Office 2007 as Office gets a makeover Says:

    [...] Groove joins Office with the announcement of Microsoft Office Groove 2007, Microsoft Office Groove Server 2007, and Microsoft Office Groove Enterprise Services for hosted deployments. All are only available through volume licensing which seems interesting given that Groove’s original claim to fame was small group collaboration through P2P sharing. There’s also a new Office Live Groove subscription service for SMBs. That would spice up the rather mundane Office Live story. [...]

  3. Computerworld Blogs Says:

    Office Live is not MS Office (and a lacy keyboard)

    In today’s IT Blogwatch, we look at Office Live — is it alive or dead? Not to mention eat and type off the same tablecloth …

  4. Microsoft News Tracker » New Google free web site service part of retro trend? Says:

    [...] Is it nostalgia for the 90’s or am I caught in a time warp? First, Microsoft reintroduces a warmed over bCentral, now Google has resuscitated the “build yourself a free home page” service concept with a spiffy AJAX Page Creator and mercifully without the annoying ads that were the hallmark of such services in the past. Chris Sherman has the details at SearchEngineWatch: Google Page Creator is a web based application that uses a basic what-you-see is what-you-get style of interface, designed to allow anyone to create and publish web pages, regardless of skill or knowledge level. … Google Page Creator is a web-based application that runs on any computer or operating system. To use it, you must have a Google account and a Gmail address. Pages that you create are stored on Google servers using a URL convention of gmailname.googlepages.com. [...]

  5. Google acquires Writely, planning a real “Office Live”? -- Microsoft News Tracker Says:

    [...] OK, the title is a bit of snarking since Microsoft’s Office Live so far has little to do with Office while Writely is one of those pesky Web 2.0 startups which offers a Web-based word processor similar to Microsoft Office Word plus collaboration features. The announcement is on the Google and Writely blogs, which is as Web 2.0 as you can get, but the larger question is just what Google is up to. Michael Arrington expresses the most common theory: This signals two things: a confirmation of Google’s desire to hit Microsoft hard and attack their largest revenue product, and that they will do this at least partially through acquisition rather than building the office suite entirely in-house. When, if ever, will Microsoft respond with their own online versions of the Office products? [...]

  6. Microsoft throws open the doors on Office Live Beta -- Microsoft News Tracker Says:

    [...] There are more details about the levels in the original Office Live announcement, but I’m a little puzzled as to who the 275,000 customers for the Office Live services beta can be unless they all want to test the collaboration offering. It would have to be a small business that doesn’t have an Internet domain, but is willing to wait until the beta starts to get one? How likely is that? Filed under Beta and CTP, Office Live, Microsoft Listen to this article   [Permalink] [...]

  7. Google’s online spreadsheet arrrives - what do they really mean by that? -- Microsoft News Tracker Says:

    [...] So why would Google put out a product that makes its arch-rival’s product more valuable? Because Google doesn’t want to compete with Office. It sees Office as part of the existing landscape, and it wants to build a new layer of functionality on top of that landscape. No one is going to stop buying Office because Google Spreadsheets exists. But what people may well do is use Spreadsheets for sharing Excel and other data online – rather than just emailing Excel files around, as they used to. If Google Spreadsheets competes with a Microsoft product, it competes with a Microsoft product that doesn’t yet exist: Excel Live, Microsoft’s own web interface for Excel data. While interesting, I can’t quite buy it because I doubt that Google can ever provide anything more than rudimentary Excel compatibility. I would agree that it one-ups the rumored Office Live as opposed to the warmed over bCentral that Microsoft has so far announced under that name, but I’ve just about given up hope on a genuine online Microsoft Office anyhow. Would Microsoft really provide an ad-supported online alternative to one of their cash cows? [...]

  8. Susan M Says:

    I had a BCentral website that I let expire a little over 2 years ago. I checked the web address off and on, it always showed Domain name available….until just recently. It seems someone bought my domain name. Fine, except that a few very old, very random pages of my former website pop up, with my name and address. This is very worrisome. How do I get in touch with BCentral to get those files removed? Thx in advance for any help!
    Susan

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