Microsoft tries a slightly different approach to keeping MS Office, their cash cow, healthy.
In 2007, Microsoft offered a fantastic deal: sign up for Office Live Small Business, register a domain name with them, host your modest website with them, create a blog on their platform, and share Office documents with your colleagues — all for little or nothing. I’ve been hosting my website and email there since 2007. They offered enhancements, including a storefront, for modest monthly fees. The collaboration portion was supposed to sell more copies of Microsoft Office.
I suspect that many Office Live users picked and chose: I used the website and email mailbox hosting services, but used OpenOfffice (cost $0) rather than Microsoft Office (cost $479).
For a couple of years it looked like Microsoft poured major effort into Office Live, but it suffered from lack of focus. About 2009, they began pulling the plug on it: they discontinued the storefront and blogging platform (“Microsoft Spaces”). Then development stopped. In 2010 they announced that they intended to kill Office Live and transition its users to a new product, dubbed Office 365.
I lost track of how many delays followed that announcement. During this time I looked at the transition procedure. I expected to see a simple procedure, but instead found a nightmare of confusing and incorrect documentation. It showed the usual lack of focus, as though people who never worked together or even spoke the same language had thrown together the mess that they called “The Transition Guide”.
I was sure that before the drop-dead deadline of April 30, Microsoft would produce a wizard that would ease the transition. I was wrong. They didn’t. In April I rolled up my sleeves and began transitioning my Office Live data to Office 365, and did the same for about a half-dozen clients.
Office 365 seems to be based upon the Software as a Service (“SAS”) model: you rent Microsoft Office from Microsoft for a monthly fee of $6.00 per user. I’ll continue to use Open Office instead.
I just heard that Microsoft has kept the email portion of Office Live, hosted by Hotmail, alive for one more month. I just tested mine. It is indeed alive.