It was only going to be a matter of time before Microsoft took a step towards bringing their Office Suite online, and yesterday they made that first step by announcing Microsoft Office Live Workspace. It’s described as the online companion to Microsoft Office and for now, only pre-registration is available. They have yet to release it into beta, but once it is, only a limited number of people who have pre-registered will get the chance to try it.
Unlike web-based office suites that allow you to author documents from your web browser (like Zoho or Google Docs), the Office Live Workspace is really only going to be used for online storage for documents and collaboration. While a user will be able to control who can view, comment, or edit documents, they can’t author any documents inside the browser. If you want to author or edit documents, it must be done on the desktop version of Office. This factor alone is probably the biggest disappointment and limitation of Office Live Workspace.
So how would this service be useful? Well, it eliminates the need for emailing yourself documents or carrying around a flash drive wherever you go. As long as you have an Internet connection and a web browser, you’ll be able to access the documents that you have saved to your workspace. This workspace will open and save files right from Word, Excel, and PowerPoint, but you can also save images and PDF’s as well.
The fact that users can’t author documents inside a web browser means that this is by no means a free alternative to Microsoft Office. You’ll need to pay the price for the Office Suite software if you want the Office Live Workspace to be of any use to you. While they currently don’t plan to let users author documents from the browser, that doesn’t mean that it won’t happen in the future. According to Todd Bishop over at SeattlePI, the senior product manager for Microsoft Office, Eric Gilmore says that Microsoft hasn’t ruled out the possibility that users would be able to author documents online – but it would require that they integrate ads to make revenue off of it.
While this sounds like it could certainly come in handy at work, school, or even home, there’s no word on when Microsoft intends to release Microsoft Office Live Workspace into beta. Todd Bishop points out that the media wasn’t given the opportunity to try a working-version of the service, so for all we know, this could end up on the Vaporware list – or the list of a highly anticipated technology products or services that are promised, but never delivered.