Microsoft's Office Live service will go out of beta 15 November and will eventually offer small businesses a chance to buy ads from rival Google and others, according to a Microsoft executive.
Office Live is Microsoft's web-based service giving small businesses a web site as well as providing basic management, worker collaboration, accounting and customer relationship management (CRM) capabilities. The service also will be available in beta versions in France, Germany, Japan and the UK on November 15.
Microsoft will also introduce a beta of a new service. Office Live adManager will let users purchase on-line advertising for Microsoft's msn.com and Windows Live Search properties, says Baris Cetinok, director of product management for Office Live. And in the next six months, the company also plans to add the ability to let users purchase ads for search engines from Google, Yahoo., Ask.com and Local.com, he says.
"Small businesses want to be able to do sales and marketing wherever they want," Cetinok says. "It's hard for them to figure out how different search engines work. If we can bring these together in one place, they can do real-time results and price comparison ... to find out which search engine sends them the most traffic."
Of course, he added, Microsoft hopes Office Live adManager also will drive on-line advertising revenue for Microsoft.
So far, Microsoft has seen its on-line advertising revenue remain flat since it launched adCenter in the US in May. But on its most recent quarterly earnings call last week, Chris Liddell, Microsoft's chief financial officer, says the company was seeing progress in this area, though he was not clear on exactly what metrics the company is using to track that progress.
Office Live will be available in three versions: Office Live Basics, a stripped-down, free version; Office Live Essentials, costing US$19.95 a month and can support up to 10 users; and Office Live Premium, costing $39.95 a month and can support up to 20 users.
They all include adManager, as well as another new service called Office Live Business Contact Manager, a CRM service.
Another change to the full version of Office Live will be a simplified web-site design tool, Cetinok says. The new tool made it easier for users to bring custom HTML to their web sites, something beta users requested.
More than 160,000 businesses have tested Office Live so far.
Microsoft first launched its Live services plan in November 2005 under the direction of Ray Ozzie, Microsoft's chief software architect.