Microsoft readies launch of Web-based business software for SMBs

US software giant Microsoft is preparing to officially release software that helps small companies do things like build a Web site and maintain business contacts, and plans to link the product to its platform for selling online advertising, an Associated Press report said.


The Associated Press report said Microsoft will officially release Office Live in the US November 15, and simultaneously launch test versions of the software in France, Germany, Japan and the UK.


Office Live, which has been available to US companies in test form for more than 8 months, is one element of Microsoft's major push to offer more Web-based products so it can compete with companies such as Google and, the Associated Press report said.


The report said Microsoft, which makes most of its money selling desktop-bound software such as the Windows operating system and Office business suite, is feeling increased pressure from companies that offer more advanced or cheaper tools online.


A free, ad-supported version of Office Live will give very small businesses the tools to create a Web site with a company domain name, plus 25 company-branded email accounts.


Microsoft will charge $19.95 or $39.95 per month for versions with more options for managing contacts and other business tasks, the report said.


Redmond, Washington-based Microsoft said about 160,000 small companies have used the test version of Office Live, the report further said.