Microsoft Office Live to launch

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Microsoft Corp. will launch a set of Web services on Nov. 15 aimed at helping small companies attract customers and generate repeat business.

After months of testing, Redmond, WA-based Microsoft said it would launch Microsoft Office Live in the United States. It also will roll out a beta version of the service in France, Germany, Japan and Britain the same day.

More than 160,000 small businesses tested Office Live during the beta program, providing important feedback that Microsoft has incorporated into the upcoming release.

New features meant to benefit small businesses' sales and marketing operations include Office Live adManager Beta; integration with Microsoft Office Accounting Express 2007; enhanced Web design tools and templates; extra storage space; additional company branded e-mail accounts and calendars; and the ability to chat online via text, voice or mobile phone with employees, customers and colleagues using their own company domain name with Windows Live Messenger.

In addition, Office Live Business Contact Manager, a tool to help small companies manage business relationships in an organized and effective way, will be available in subscription-based Office Live offerings.

A key feature for marketers is the Office Live adManager Beta, which works with Microsoft adCenter, the underlying service that delivers and places subscribers' keyword ads on Windows Live Search.

Office Live adManager Beta, Microsoft said, will help small businesses begin purchasing keywords, optimize their advertising budget and reduce the time spent managing this process.

The company will offer a free, ad-supported version of Office Live that includes Web hosting, 25 company-branded e-mail accounts, a shared calendar and access to Microsoft's advertising platform.

There will two subscription-based versions at $19.95 a month and $39.95 a month. Both versions come with more storage and more e-mail accounts than in the basic offering.

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