Microsoft has just announced its version 2 of Office Live Small Business (and no, Henry Blodget, its not an online version of Office), the website management suite of tools for building and managing a small business online presence. According to tonight’s press release, via IDC, “about half of the small businesses in the United States with fewer than 10 employees do not have a Web site”. Office Live, first revealed here on LiveSide almost exactly two years ago, now boasts almost 600,000 customers worldwide, in the US, UK, France, Germany, and Japan.
The new version includes a number of new features and changes, most notably that the tier structure of Office Live Small Business is being done away with. Previously, customers had to choose between Basics, Essentials, and Premium. In the new version, the model moves to a basic free account with add-ons. What’s new in Office Live Small Business? The short list includes Firefox support, a new pricing structure, Workspaces included at no cost for all users, a free year of custom domain and 100 business email accounts with 5gb of storage each, and a new e-commerce section that enables online sales and management from the customer’s Office Live website, or from eBay.
Here’s a more complete list:
- Free and even easier to get started.
- Customer no longer need to choose a domain name or enter a credit card number to open an account.
- Once a customer is signed up, everything needed to establish a professional Web presence is provided for free, including Web hosting and an easy-to-use Web site building tool, as well as a custom domain name with 100 business-branded e-mail accounts (a custom domain and business e-mail is free for the first year, $14.95 annually thereafter).
- In addition, customers receive several useful business applications previously available only for a monthly fee, including Project Manager, Document Manager and Contact Manager, free at sign-up.
- Store Manager ($39.95 per month). This hosted e-commerce tool enables customers to sell products on their Office Live Small Business Web site and on eBay.
- E-mail Marketing beta (200 e-mails per month/free during beta). The feature makes it possible to connect to customers by sending newsletters, promotions and updates within attractive e-mails that match the look and feel of the Web site.
- adManager (pay-per-click pricing). Now out of beta, this keyword advertising feature has been enhanced with a new bid recommendation engine and additional distribution through the Ask Sponsored Listings network.
- Unified Analytics. A new tool called Analytics provides reports for Store Manager, adManager, E-mail Marketing beta and Web site traffic, integrated in one central reporting experience.
- Workspaces. Now included at no cost to all users, Workspaces is simpler to use, with new sidebars that make it easier to see user permissions, add new users to a workspace and share data.
- Advanced Web site design tools. It’s now even easier to get a professional Web site up and running. Office Live Small Business templates now offer more customization options, allowing customers to directly edit the code or import code from another site. In addition, customers now have the freedom to use any Web site design tool they choose to build their site.
- Firefox support. Tools and features are now compatible with the Firefox 2.0 Web browser, even on Macs.
- Private domain name registration. All custom domains now automatically receive private domain name registration, to help customers better protect their contact information from spammers and phishers.
- Premium e-mail ($19.95 per year). Customers can upgrade their 100 ad-supported free e-mail accounts to ad-free accounts.
Office Live Small Business is available at http://smallbusiness.officelive.com