Microsoft Office Live is going into beta this week. It's part of Redmond's ongoing attempt to move from being just a software company to being, at least partly, a company that provides online products.
The Office Live service will be a small-business Web host, essentially. It's designed to help very small businesses (watch for this new acronym: VSB) get online with e-mail and a basic Web site. There will be a free version.
Oh, but you will pay. Eventually, it's a safe bet that Microsoft will start to offer commerce and advertising products on top of its "free" service. While these services might not ever bill the small business directly, Microsoft may be able to take a cut of online revenues. It's a good model for Microsoft, and if it helps the VSB, customers shouldn't mind if the company makes a few pennies for its efforts. That is, as long as the commissions are reasonable and disclosed.
We'll have a quick review up very soon.