Microsoft have released two websites just recently: one that barely works and one that doesn’t actually do anything at all.
The first is live.com, some sort of portal that seems rather like start.com, though Robert Scoble, Microsoft’s chief apologist, claims there will be more to it than that. At the moment though, it doesn’t work with Firefox. Joel Spolsky gives it a thorough spanking.
The second is officelive.com, which appears to be an attempt by Microsoft to head off the potential competition of Web 2.0 style applications, presumably by offering online services that MS Office currently lacks while still tying users into the core desktop applications. Either way, all you can do at the moment is register an interest.
There are a couple of issues to be debated around here. One is the current fad, which is to release stupidly early beta versions of software, which I assume Google is partly responsible for. Is there some sort of credibility to be gained by having beta releases floating around at a really early point? Possibly – the other factor might be that these companies are getting a whole load of free testing being done, and with the growth of blogs and accurate searching via Technorati and the like, it’s all very easily collated.
Secondly, if Microsoft is taking a turn in this direction, then it must be pretty worried. Maybe the constant rumours of a Google powered OpenOffice have got Bill Gates and co. a little worried. But the ease of sharing and collaborating on documents across the net is becoming a number one priority for software makers, and this will have interesting affects on all sorts of things, not least the way people work. Soon, people working from home, given a fat enough broadband connection, will be able to do everything that someone based in the office can – and they can be anywhere in the world, and using any operating system. Maybe Microsoft try and use their web services to tie users into their existing platforms, but they would be unlikely to succeed long term.
The key to all this is the creation and acceptance of an open standard for documentation formats, to ensure that peope can work across all services, so that it doesn’t matter what application or site someone is using: the file can always be opened.