Microsoft today released Office Live Workspace, which has been in a private beta for quite some time now, to the public. Office Live — as you might know — is Microsoft’s play in the web office market as a response to Google as well as enabling web integration with their traditional Office products. ReadWriteWeb has a fantastic feature-by-feature comparison between the app and Google Docs.
Resembling Microsoft’s other online productivity plays with Windows Live products, specifically the new Hotmail (Windows Live Mail), Workspace provides an intuitive and very AJAXified interface. Unlike the traditional Office and Google Docs, Workspace, however, isn’t just a feature-by-feature port over. Instead, there a number of new and unique concepts that Microsoft is seeking to introduce.
Firstly, there are no files and folders and templates, and instead, there are workspaces. Organized — and if you choose — pre-prepared set of files for your task. Everything you could possibly want to create using the service is available as a workspace — including workspaces for class notes, essay, event, meeting, school, and travel. Or alternatively, you can choose to start with a traditional blank workspace and create your own documents within.
Inside a workspace are several kinds of file types and formats. Currently, there’s note, list, task list, contact list, and event list. Choosing the “class” workspace resulted with several pre-prepared workspaces including class notes, syllabus, essay outlines, contact information, and important dates. As expected, these are templates and ready for the user to modify as soon as they are clicked on.
It’s pretty clear that Workspace doesn’t look to be a typical office clone or be event cast in the same category, but something wholly new — a new way of managing your productivity life. And what a platform for Microsoft to try such a play on — this is something they could never do with a traditional piece of software. Sure, there is a lot of complexity involved as a result and the blank canvas feeling with Google Docs and Microsoft may be missed, but then one has to realize the web is much more than that — the ability to be more organized and go a step further is there, so why not use it?
One thing I will be missing is integration with the traditional office as I’ve long wanted a hybrid online/offline product, but hey — I am sure it’s in the pipeline.