Microsoft Debuts Public Beta For Microsoft Office Live Workspace

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Microsoft Office Live Workspace lets people save and organize more than 1,000 Microsoft Office documents online, accessing and sharing them via the Web. Microsoft said that "hundreds of thousands" of people have signed up for the private beta program for the online service since it began last October. The vendor also has made the beta available to students and faculty at a number of colleges and universities, including the University of Pennsylvania, Vanderbilt University and the University of Washington.

The online service competes with other online document suites such as Google Docs, but users still need Microsoft Office apps to create the documents they store and share online.

This week Microsoft said it has enhanced the online document management service, adding e-mail notification about changes to documents and workspaces, multi-file upload capabilities, and an "activity panel" that let's users see at a glance all activity in a workspace. Users can also now bookmark their workspace using a unique URL in a browser window, the company said.

The Microsoft Office Live Workspace beta is available at and is free. Release of the final public version of the service is expected later this year.

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As for the sweepstakes, Microsoft will award more than 30,000 prizes " including a $100,000 grand prize -- for U.S.-based Office Live Workspace beta users. Other prizes include Xbox 360 Elite video game systems, Samsung Blackjack II Smartphone devices, and Zune players. The sweepstakes run through May 11 and participants enter by registering to participate in the beta program.

Microsoft Office Live Workspace is one of several online services that Microsoft previewed last fall. Monday Microsoft announced that it would expand availability of its Microsoft Online Services, which includes Web-hosted versions of its Exchange and SharePoint applications, from large companies only to businesses of all sizes. Some solution providers worry that could lead to channel conflict given Microsoft's earlier promise to leave sales of Microsoft Online Services to companies with fewer than 5,000 seats to its channel partners.