Microsoft has updated it’s Office Live service, now called Office Live Small Business. Originally launched about two years ago, Office Live offered business an easy way to get set up with an online office suite, including a free domain name, a basic website, and hosted email service. Since then it has garnered around 600,000 users. The online suite was heavily marketed at small business who have a) little or no IT staff and b) little understanding of how to set these these types of services up.
The new updates include combining previously separate services into one, with the premium services available as a la carte options. Two services that used to cost money, contact management and Intranet portal creation are now free. A domain name is complimentary for the first year and includes 100 email accounts with up to 5GB of storage each. Additionally, you can now sync with Microsoft Office Outlook and Firefox 2.0 is supported.
Clearly, these new features are meant to better compete with Google Apps for Your Domains. Additional competition includes Yahoo’s small business package that just announced unlimited hosting. Their packages cost $11.95/month. I imagine Microsoft has some leverage with potential customers because of the Microsoft brand and users’ assumption that having Microsoft online services will work best with Microsoft’s Office software.
If you are a small business who would like to have a quick and easy website and email services, you might give Office Live Small Business a look, especially as compared to Google Apps For Your Domains (as covered before here, here, and here.)