Microsoft taps partners for Office Live apps

Microsoft Corp. is working with partners to come up with a directory of add-on applications for Office Live that will be ready when the full version of the service goes live later this year.

Marja Koopmans, director of partner strategy and execution for Office Live at Microsoft, said Tuesday that the company is working in a pilot program with several partners that are developing applications for Office Live using Microsoft SharePoint Services and Microsoft Access.

Once Office Live is available, those services can be purchased either directly from those partners or through a directory that will be available in each of Office Live’s three service plans, she said.

For example, Hanebutt Consulting Group is building a human resources application for Office Live that will give customers a comprehensive site for tracking and managing employee data such as expenses and schedules, she said.

Another company, NPower Network, is building an application specifically aimed at helping nonprofit companies manage fund-raising activities, Koopmans said.

Office Live is a hosted service that will provide small businesses with everything from a basic Web presence to e-mail accounts, CRM (customer relationship management), collaboration and other tools to run their businesses. The service is currently in beta testing and is expected to be available in its full release in November or December of this year.

Office Live will be available in three flavors. Office Live Basic is a free, ad-supported service that will give small businesses a basic Web presence and e-mail accounts.

Office Live Essentials, which will cost about US$30 a month, adds collaboration capabilities and 22 applications such as CRM, project management, calendaring and employee management. A third service plan, Office Live Collaboration, is for companies that already have their own Web presence, but want all of the collaboration and applications. It also will cost about $30 a month.

Roger Otterson is president of Qualitec, a consulting firm in San Diego that specializes in small businesses that also is working with Microsoft to provide add-on applications for Office Live. Some Microsoft partners may see Office Live as a service small-business customers will purchase and set up themselves, Otterson said.

But he sees the service as an opportunity to provide value-added services to companies that want to customize Office Live for their particular business.

“The reality is, most small businesses don’t want to take the time to get out the How to Do a Web Site for Dummies book,” he said. “We see Office Live as a platform to build upon everything from the basics up to an application that gives a small business the opportunity to do things that in the past required [more infrastructure investment].”

All three Office Live services plans will come with the partner directory of applications, Koopmans said. At this time, it’s not clear how many add-on applications will be available for the service upon its release, she said.

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