A long time ago -- by which I mean, June -- I was interviewing Lee Nicholls, global solutions director at Getronics, about the integration potential of Office 2007 and SharePoint.
He was telling me how SharePoint Server would really open up the collaborative functions of Office 2007 through document sharing and editing. He was impressed with it, and I was impressed with a lot of the integration potential -- but the document sharing, not so much. In fact, most of the functions he mentioned I'd been able to do in Google for at least a year.
Not being a particularly subtle person, I actually said something to the effect of, "Yeah, but, I can do that now with Google." He simply replied, "Yes, but most enterprises don't let their employees use Google Documents."
Google is a bit of a thorn for Microsoft. As Bill Gates has pointed out, people expect Microsoft to be innovative and offer new technology -- all while we expect it to keep up with every company out there. Google just has to keep up with itself.
I couldn't help but think of that conversation when I saw this week that Office Live Workspace is entering a new stage of beta testing. Office Live Workspace is a Web solution that allows Office users to store and edit documents online - it's designed to solve all the problems you get when you try to collaborate on a document through e-mail.
Essentially, it's Google Documents -- you can upload documents for free and share them with others for viewing or editing. And, for those of you unfamiliar with Google Documents, that's basically a Web-based content management system for those who don't generally need content management systems.
Microsoft's Live Office offers more powerful features than Google Documents, which offers fairly simple editing functionality. For instance, it will allow you to create lists and synchronize with your Outlook calendar.
While it's in beta, it's free, though long term, Microsoft plans to offer the free service with ads and sell a premium version.
But then again, you don't need to own Office to use Google - and you do need to be an Office user for Live Office.
If you want to see how it works, Kirk Gregerson, director of Microsoft Office Client Product Management, and Eric Gilmore, a senior product manager in the same division, gave blogger Robert Scoble -- a former technical evangelist at Microsoft -- a personal tour for his show.
Obviously, if this product is based in the consumer and small business area, that's the target market. And I'm guessing it will be popular with the general public. The question is: Will businesses feel any more secure about Microsoft Live Office than they do Google Documents?