There’s a new way to collaborate out there. It’s hard to believe but email with attachments is old. You can store your documents centrally, set permissions on multiple user edits, handle concurrent editing, send out email alerts. Imagine the advantages in never bringing up an old version of a document to edit. Or waiting for your colleague to finish their edits. Many people probably haven’t totally switched over yet, because they’re stuck in a decade-old style of work flow. But the next generation coming along will have switched.
Hence, some of the strategy behind Microsoft’s announcement last week.  They are releasing a beta of their free online workspace dubbed Office Live Workspace as part of the Live@edu for students. Unfortunately… about seven years late. Students are using Google docs, Wikis, Facebook, blogs etc.
They don’t have it very clearly stated, but the bad news is you can’t edit your online documents if you access them from a public computer that doesn’t already have MS Office installed. Less control, less creativity. You’re given a Hotmail account which adds to Microsoft’s bottom line. Oh, the university can brand Hotmail as their own with a “powered by Windows Live Hotmail” underneath the university logo. “UC Berkeley - Powered by Windows Live Hotmail” just doesn’t sound right.
It’s an attempt to reach out to the next gen of Internet users which Microsoft needs if it wants to continue to dominate in technology. The issue for them is that there are many free solutions out there that do a better job. The Linux Foundation uses Media Wiki to run our web site. Some low-cost PC these days come pre-loaded with Google Docs. There are so many high quality options for students that don’t include Microsoft. Once again, Microsoft is trying to cling to their lucrative past of tying people down to Office on the desktop and it is hindering their efforts to really enter the connected and open world.