za101996991033.gifI spent the day yesterday getting the lowdown on Microsoft Office Live from Don Campbell, Microsoft’s OL evangelist – there’s definitely two potential opportunities there for microISVs. Office Live has nothing whatsoever to do with Excel and Word online – it’s Microsoft’s play to be an ISP for reluctant adopter small businesses who are now getting around to be building some sort of web presence for themselves – about 10 million in the US alone.
Since November, about 400,000 have taken Microsoft up on its offer of free web hosting and domain name registration, ultra-easy web site design via the slickest template system I’ve ever seen and the ability to build simple work flows (submit a reservation for the B & B from its OL site and when the proprietor approves it out goes the confirmation email, the time is booked out in an online calendar and an invoice created in Word 2007.)
There’s some higher end stuff you can get into here too: the ability to host mashups, to call Office Live via web services from your .NET/WPF/Silverlight application, the ability to build some rather sophisticated work flows for clients you might garner from the OL world.
You can sign up for free (80% of that 400,000 did just that), or up the ante to $19.95 or $39.95 a month. What you get for your money includes online document collaboration (works in Office 2003, much slicker in Office 2007), email accounts, more space, more company users.
So why should you as a microISV care?

  • If you sell a product or service (say web design), you can access a nice size pool of prospective customers who haven’t bought into anyone else’s way of doing business for the price of setting up a free account and populating a profile page at the Office Live Marketplace.
  • If you want to go a step further and provide your service inside the Office Live biodome, you can, and since Microsoft is eagerly looking for partners small and large to do just that, you will get prominent play. For example, there’s a company called Ring Central that sells an interesting virtual PBX service that has made its HTML badge available in Office Live – add it to your site and when customers click it Ring Central calls both them and you – and you can define which number to call at what time, who to call, etc. I can see microISVs like InvoicePlace taking advantage of this.
  • If you do consulting and/or sell products and you want someone else to manage the plumbing, Office Live may in the future (early 2008) be the right place for you. But two key components – a registration system for your customers/clients and an ecommerce module are not there yet.

All in all, Office Live has some interesting possibilities for microISVs selling to micro businesses – check it out. Here’s some links Don Campbell forwarded:
Office Live Developer Portal (Mashups and code samples are here)
Office Live Marketplace
Developer Screencasts on Channel 9
Mix 07 Presentation/Demo Recording (including a good PowerPoint overview of Office Live)
Don Campbell’s Blog (He blogs about Office Live topics, including some of the ways you can use JavaScript within the Office Live framework.)
[tags]Office Live, microISVs[/tags]


  1. What I’m curious to know is, did they mention the fact that another benefit to using Office Live is the free rewards program they have with it? As an Office Live subscriber (even with the free version) you get points for page views, adding content, adding user email addresses and other things like referring someone else to Office Live. One you’ve accumulated enough points, you can redeem them for various items from a catalogue.

  2. @Bob: Excellent post – I look forward to following your blog!
    @Anon: I’m not aware of a program in place today for this but we are exploring ways to reward partners beyond offering their services and solutions to Office Live customers.

  3. @Don: Hi Don. There is a program already in place, and it’s an official part of Office Live. If you’re signed into your Office Live account, you should see a banner to get you to the rewards site. If you’re not signed in, you can still see the following pages:
    How the program works:
    Terms and Conditions:
    Other pages will direct you to sign into Office Live first and then you can view your points and rewards.

  4. @me: My mistake. It isn’t a banner when you log into Office Live, it’s a link. From the main Office Live page (after logging in) there’s a link in the Resource Center box titled “Earn points, get great rewards” that brings you to your rewards page.

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