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Microsoft Expands Office Live Workspace Beta Worldwide

After nearly three months of private beta testing, Microsoft Office Live Workspace is being rolled out worldwide as a full public beta.

After nearly three months of private beta testing involving about 100,000 users, Microsoft Office Live Workspace (OLW) is being rolled out worldwide as a full public beta. Previously, participants had to be qualified by Microsoft for the beta; now, as of today, it's open to all comers who wish to create workspaces. Coinciding with the public beta, Microsoft has also revved OLW with new features and enhancements and has kicked off a sweepstakes to build awareness for the service.

Office Live Workspace is a Web-based suite of office tools that's designed to complement Microsoft Office and that includes features for online document sharing and collaboration. It was announced originally in October, then went into private beta in December. The integration of OLW allows users to upload Office files through the service and set permissions for colleagues to view and collaborate on assignments and other documents. Live@edu has been around since 2005 but only incorporated OLW in the last quarter of 2007.

Full Beta Rollout, Enhanced Features
The full public beta of Office Live Workspace went live March 4 at 12:01 a.m. EST. At present, it's available only in English, although Microsoft told us that it plans to support additional languages in 2008. Said Guy Gilbert, group product manager for Microsoft's Office Live Workspace, "We're still working on that timeline, but we will introduce other languages in other markets later this year."

The beta previously required users to pre-register for the service and for beta participants to be qualified by Microsoft. Gilbert said that "hundreds of thousands" of people have already pre-registered. Now the pre-registration and qualification restrictions have been lifted.

To coincide with the public launch, Microsoft has also incorporated several feature enhancements suggested by beta participants.

These improvements, for now, include:

  • E-mail notifications about changes to documents, including added comments;
  • A new, expanded Activity Panel that now includes information about changes to workspaces, including the date and time of the changes, the users who made the changes, and links to changed documents;
  • Permalinks for workspaces;
  • Support for multi-file uploads; and
  • Various improvements to the sharing workflow, including a streamlined UI.
To coincide with the full beta launch of Office Live Workspace, Microsoft has also announced a new sweepstakes open to anyone who signs up for the service between March 4 and May 11. There will be 30,000 daily and weekly prizes, including Xbox 360 Elite systems, Zune players, smart phones, and software, along with a $100,000 grand prize. Users can accumulate up to two bonus entries for uploading documents and sharing a document or workspace. Winners will be announced around May 15, according to the company.

About the Author

Dave Nagel is the executive editor for 1105 Media's educational technology online publications and electronic newsletters.

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