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. , ). Presumably, Microsoft thinks they’ll have more luck this time around, but it’s not clear why.