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With the official launch of Office Live, Microsoft will introduce several enhancements to the Web-based service aimed at helping small businesses develop an online presence.

The service, which Microsoft has been beta testing since February, will go live on Nov. 15 with public availability in the United States. At the same time, Office Live betas will be launched in France, Germany, Japan and the United Kingdom.

eWEEK Labs’ tests of Office Live Premium—the most feature-rich of the three versions of Office Live—show that the service is best suited for small-business people who lack the time, expertise or inclination to manage an e-mail server, Web site and collaboration platform. Subscribers get a domain name and as many as 50 2GB e-mail accounts (depending on which version they purchase—Office Live Basics, Office Live Essentials or Office Live Premium).

Since the time that eWEEK Labs reviewed Office Live in beta, Microsoft has added features including integration with the forthcoming Office 2007 productivity suite, increased storage and e-mail accounts, new Web site design tools, and a contact management tool called Office Live Business Contact Manager.

Click here to read the review of the Office Live beta.

One thing we hoped to see in the final version was the ability to access Office Live with any browser, including the Mozilla Foundation’s Firefox. Alas, Office Live still requires Internet Explorer 6 or higher. For full functionality, Office Live also requires Microsoft Office.

The final version of Office Live has ties to Microsoft’s new Office Accounting Express 2007, which allows users to manage all financial aspects of their businesses online. Office Live also has a new Outlook Connector feature that allowed us—after a few initial hang-ups—to use the Outlook 2007 e-mail client to send and receive Office Live e-mail tied to our test domain (

The launch of Office Live will usher in the beta of Office Live adManager, a tool that Office Live subscribers can use to purchase and develop online ads for driving traffic to their Web sites. We found the tool, which works with Windows Live Search, easy to use, but our test ad was still awaiting search engine approval at time of publication.

Anne Chen can be reached at

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