Microsoft updates Office Live Small Business

Microsoft adds e-commerce and marketing features to its Office Live service for small businesses.

Microsoft has updated its Office Live Small Business hosted service with new e-commerce and marketing tools to help small businesses sell their products and services online.

The new version of Microsoft's service to help small businesses build a Web presence, unveiled Monday, now includes Store Manager, a tool aimed at helping small businesses build their own e-commerce sites as well as storefronts on eBay.com to sell their products. Store Manager costs US$39.95 per month.

Microsoft also has added a beta version of an e-mail marketing service that allows users to send out regular e-mail newsletters, promotions and updates. The service is free for up to 200 e-mails per month during the beta, the company said.

Other new features to Office Live Small Business include custom domain name and business e-mail that is available free for one year and US$14.95 per year after that. Through the service, businesses can privately register their domain names and brand up to 100 business e-mail accounts, each with 5G bytes of storage, according to Microsoft.

Microsoft also has added Web-site customization tools; support for Firefox 2.0 so Mac users can use Office Live Small Business tools and features; and an improved interface and enhanced search ability in Contact Manager, the service's contact-management system, to the updated service.

Office Live Small Business is Microsoft's Web-based service aimed at giving small businesses a Web site as well as providing basic management, worker collaboration, accounting, and CRM (customer relationship management) capabilities. Microsoft defines small businesses as those with 50 employees or fewer. The service originally was called Office Live but Microsoft recently changed the name.

People often mistake Office Live for a Web-based version of Microsoft's Office productivity suite, one of the reasons Microsoft added "Small Business" to the service's name. Eventually, Microsoft does plan to offer features of its Office software online as a service, plans Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates discussed Monday at the Microsoft Office System Developer Conference in San Jose, California.

Microsoft said Office Live Small Business currently has nearly 600,000 customers in the countries where it is currently available -- the U.S., U.K., France, Germany and Japan.

More information about Office Live Small Business can be found on the home page for the service.

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