Microsoft ready to pull Office Live beta trigger

Microsoft is ready to pull the trigger on the first beta test of its Office Live service, according to the LiveSide.net blog.

Microsoft is readying a beta of its Office Live hosted service as new details emerged about an e-mail service the company plans to release as part of the offering.

The e-mail service, Office Live Mail, will provide users the ability to read and receive e-mail from any Internet-connected computer by accessing the service through either a standard Web browser or through Microsoft Outlook, versions 2000 and 2003, according to LiveSide.net (http://www.liveside.net), a blog the follows Microsoft's plan for offering hosted services.

All of LiveSide.net's bloggers are either Microsoft dedicated beta testers or Most Valuable Professionals (MVPs), Harrison Hoffman, one of its bloggers, said in an e-mail. MVP is an award the company gives people who are active and helpful in communities for Microsoft's different product groups.

Hoffman said that Office Live Mail is just one component of Office Live, which Microsoft promises will be a hosted offering aimed at business users, not consumers. Microsoft released pre-beta e-mail for Office Live about two weeks ago that said the service will offer a free Web site with a domain name, hosting services, online business applications and e-mail, according to LiveSide.net.

Hoffman said he expects the Office Live beta to be available to testers in the next several weeks. Users can still register for the beta at http://www.microsoft.com/office/officelive/default.mspx.

In addition to Internet-based access to e-mail, Office Live Mail also will offer free and paid subscriber accounts, with free accounts providing 250MB of storage, and paid accounts providing 2GB of storage, according to the blog.

Users of Office Live Mail also will have the ability to manage their POP (Post Office Protocol) accounts through the service, according to LiveSide.net. MSN Plus, MSN Premium and Office Live subscribers all will have the ability to access mail from other POP accounts via the service. In addition, Office Live Mail will enable users to save e-mail messages to a local computer to free up storage space and to access messages when offline, according to the blog.

Microsoft could not be reached for immediate comment on Thursday.

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