Microsoft makes online Office play, but not for Linux

By   |  March 7, 2008

Microsoft yesterday announced a beta of its Microsoft Office Live Workspace beta, an online platform were users can store documents and share them with others. Reviews of Microsoft Office Live Workspace have been varied but if you’re running Linux you won’t get to use the Live Workspace at all.

Visiting the Microsoft Office Live Workspace promises to allow users to store as many a 1000 documents online and share them with colleagues. Sounds good. Unless you try and sign up for the free service and you’re running Linux. If you are running Linux then you’ll be greeted with a screen informing you that you’ll need to be running a version of Windows or MacOSX and either Internet Explorer or Firefox (good to see Firefox in there).

In fact, that is just one of the many restrictions on using Microsoft Workspace. To use the site you not only need to be running Windows but you also need to be the proud owner of a copy of Microsoft Office on your work PC. Unlike Google Apps you’re not able to create documents online. You need to do that on your local PC using Office and then store them online.

Without a copy of Windows to hand we can’t really provide a review of Workspace but it does seem a pity that while Microsoft makes pledges to be more open with open source applications it continues to exclude users on the basis of their software.


32 Responses to “Microsoft makes online Office play, but not for Linux”

  1. crazyscientist
    March 7th, 2008 @ 11:50 am

    Oh, isn’t that typical – we are offering you a wonderful web tool – full of ads like Google, but in addition you need to buy several hundred $$$ of bad products from us for the priviledge of reading our advertisements because we want to lock you into our proprietary formats and make sure that you continue to give us your hard-earned money for really bad software and spyware.

  2. Evildarren
    March 7th, 2008 @ 3:27 pm

    I agree, whats the point!!

    Once again M$ blow a chance to alter/improve their rather tatty (in my eyes) public image.
    Very surprised they actually acknowledge Firefox though.

    Give me linux and google web-apps anyday…….

  3. Pete
    March 7th, 2008 @ 3:45 pm

    @ crazyscientist
    It makes perfect business sense to exclude users who are not using your software and as Microsoft do not develop office applications for Linux why allow users using a rival platform unable to run Microsoft’s applications gain access to this service?

    Before you make a reply stating “pete your a M$ boy (if any exist) I too dislike Microsoft products therefore try to use better alternatives where possible. For example I’m typing this reply using Firefox running on Ubuntu Linux.

    So basically what I’m saying is even though most/ all of Microsoft’s actions are out of pure greed their marketing strategy makes perfect sense and obviously works as they are able to sell what may be classed as second rate software to a big percentage of the computer market, this is apparent in Windows dominance in the Operating System market!

  4. Wogan May
    March 7th, 2008 @ 5:13 pm

    Personally? I still like storing my documents on my PC. Online storage can get faster, bigger, badder, stronger, cheaper and easier to use, and I’ll still save documents locally. I’ll go to my deathbed with a backup disc.

    Why? Simple. All these servers are in first-world countries like the US. And such countries are about to have their internet infrastructures shaken up, with the new bill the Net Neutrality group is fighting so hard to stop. Once it’s passed (it’s showing no signs of stopping), it’s unknown whether or not us poor African nations will be able to log in to US sites at all.

    I’d hate to have all my data disappear behind a Verizon intercontinental firewall, simply because my ISP isn’t paying for access to the new “uber Internet” in the US.

    Give me a flashdrive over SkyDrive anyday. And I still prefer KATE for all my document needs. :)

    ~ Wogan

  5. jassuncao
    March 7th, 2008 @ 5:52 pm

    I’m sorry but your article is incorrect. I’m currently using Firefox on Slackware Linux and I was able to sign up and use Microsoft Office Live Workspace. I have only tested it for a couple of minutes, but it seem fully operational. I’m not using any extension to hide or change my browser user agent information.

  6. Chrishas
    March 7th, 2008 @ 7:39 pm

    How does it make perfect sense when they’re trying to promote a product that not only is so restrictive but also it’s competition beats it anytime, M$ is rolling downhill, it failed with Vista and I don’t see many other of their products succeeding in anything when open source alternatives are everywhere and very few of their programs are still unreplaceable (Project for one).
    M$s actions are anything but successful, many people are starting to learn about Linux when before they had no idea about it, the hardware gap which existed in Linux is starting to disappear, games and designing software(Adobes software) are also the only things that are not ported natively without a software providing compatibility in the middle(wine). They could have eliminated this growing threat by lowering prices and fixing windows years ago, but instead they continued the same way…

  7. Alan
    March 7th, 2008 @ 8:00 pm

    Interesting how Mac OSX is supported, though, don’t you think?

    Sure it makes good business sense to protect the monopoly, but it sure casts a disingenuous light on their recent pledges about interoperability, openness, and support for open-source platforms. I think that’s where crazyscientist is coming from.

    Lock-in strategies are “good business” from the standpoint of an organization watching its bottom line, but it’s bad for the consumer and that’s what users need to realize.

    If you ask me, the whole thing is just MS playing the “we have it too” game to reassure MSO addicts that they are still using the best product.

  8. Henaway
    March 7th, 2008 @ 8:18 pm

    I have Office 2003 running just fine on Ubuntu via Wine (from the winehq repos) … soooooooooooo I’m using their software (because I have to run it at work on XP). But by their standards, I’m not good enough to use their new service because I won’t shell out 200 bucks to slow down my home PC? Screw that. They can keep it. I can share docs by FTP and email just as easy as this BS anyway.

  9. Alastair Otter
    March 7th, 2008 @ 8:22 pm


    Interesting. Because I have just tried it again (using Ubuntu Gutsy and Frirefox 2) and it is still not available to me. Are you sure you don’t have an extension or something? It explicitly says Windows or Mac OSX using Internet Explorer or Firefox.

  10. Pete
    March 7th, 2008 @ 9:07 pm

    @Chrishas Monopoly, Microsoft make their money by locking consumers into using their products by not making them compatible with anybody else’s software.

    @Alan yes funny that being Microsoft develops a version of their office applications for the Macintosh Platform oppose to linux which is viewed as a “cancer”.

    @Alan & Crishas yes I totally agree that Microsoft’s actions put them in somewhat of a bad light especially after their interoperability pledges but it is mainly the more advance computer users who really know about Microsoft’s actions and alternative software.

    Most schools, colleges and universities (excluding computing courses as users have a wider exposer to alterative operating systems) use a lot of applications produced by Microsoft.
    So when buying a new computer students and ex students will buy the software and systems they are use to using as unlike the clever computing students don’t want nor need to experiment with the alternatives.
    For example a couple of my flat mates are on non computing courses and use Windows, I’m on a computing course and have two computers with three different operating systems in use between them, Mac OS X, Ubuntu Linux and long behold the long time favorite Windows XP.

    I might despise Windows but it does have the biggest market share and as Microsoft office breaks most documents created in open office I have to use MS Office as well so even I who uses alternate software still has to use MS products in order for my documents to be displayed correctly to tutors and prospective employers.

    Therefore the monopoly WORKS!

  11. Robert
    March 7th, 2008 @ 9:42 pm

    So big deal!! who give a crap! I use Open Office all the time.

  12. Maarten
    March 7th, 2008 @ 10:34 pm

    @Alastair: I encountered the same problem, but circumvented it by registering on a windows PC at my work. After registration you can “use” Live Office without problems, though it will not be of much use, since you will not be able to modify any documents without M$ office. here’s an article I wrote about Office Live: Link

  13. Pete
    March 7th, 2008 @ 11:21 pm

    Well good for you Robert, want to try creating your CV in open office, saving then sending it to someone to read and print out in open office even though its saved as a .doc file I bet you it won’t look the same in MS office as it does in open office!

  14. Joey Cagle
    March 8th, 2008 @ 12:50 am

    It’s working for me in Grafpup Linux, a variant of Puppy Linux. And I don’t have any firefox extensions added to my browser.

  15. Joey Cagle
    March 8th, 2008 @ 12:57 am

    Well while checking it out, I did discover that some things (like Windows Live Writer) are requiring you to download an EXE file (Windows executable). I tried running it in WINE but it didn’t work. Maybe there will be more success using Crossover, but my demo copy of that has expired.

  16. Chrishas
    March 8th, 2008 @ 1:16 am

    I agree with you, the monopoly works,but for how long? Things change all the time, a new Ubuntu version comes out every six months, that’s less time than it took microsoft to release a service pack for vista,which actually did not seem to improve much according to reviews. People are learning, the majority of people use computers these days and I have heard a lot of my friends who before had no idea of what Linux was now telling me they have downloaded and tried it or at least seen it. Eversince Ubuntu became popular it has been constantly winning ground and making companies realise the power that can come out of linux. If Dell or any other company promoted more PCs with linux preinstalled people would see the price difference and would question why it is like that, and with all essential software preinstalled why wouldn’t anyone choose that over a windows machine? Seriously only gamers who seek to play the latest game right when its out will be dissapointed, the rest can use wine…

  17. Sum Yung Gai
    March 8th, 2008 @ 4:57 am

    Just use Simple. Not only is it local storage, but also it’s free (in both senses). Thus you maintain control of your documents/data at all times, not some corporate who could easily sell out to the American NSA (think the US telcos here).


  18. stoobie
    March 8th, 2008 @ 5:03 am

    I agree with Robert. I find myself neither excited about MicroSoft pinching off another fabulous product/service that I can’t use, nor am I particularly disappointed about that when I have so many excellent alternatives at my disposal.
    The boys in Redmond deserve a big *(YAWN) whatever…* for maintaining their predictable standards of bogus promises and feeble attempts to duplicate what others have already done.

  19. Pete
    March 8th, 2008 @ 12:46 pm

    @ crazyscientist
    Exactly the monopoly is based on ignorance, more companies are starting to look at desktop Linux as well.
    People are starting to become more educated and exposed to more systems all be it through some geeky members of their family.
    I’d never used linux 4 years ago and wanted to know what was so different so got a copy of Suse 10 and installed it on my laptop, I were surprised at how easy the installation was and Ubuntu is even easier to install!

  20. pcfixer
    March 9th, 2008 @ 10:03 am

    Microsoft is missing the point with this kind of online application. The whole point is that it should be platform independent and that the user wouldn’t need an installed office application on there computer. Just think of it, what if the user went to a custumer, a friend or an internet café that doesn’t have a copy of ms office installed or uses openoffice and linux, can he/she open up and edit his/her document with this so called “online application” that apparently requires MSoffice to work?

    The thing is that there are other alternatives to this type of application that fully integrates with both Openoffice and MSoffice and some of them can work on any platform as far as I know, for instance Google docs, Ulteo, Buzzword, Peepel and Online storage web site, to name a few.
    All of these have similar features as MSoffice-online and some of them are free as in no cost to use

    There are plenty to choose from so there is really no need to pay for MSoffice-online thats limited to only the Windows and Mac platform and of course therefor will be limited to work only with Ms- office file formats.

    You also need to pay for a license key for MSoffice if you don’t already have it so they are totally missing the point with this application

  21. LeftyAce
    March 10th, 2008 @ 4:23 am

    I’ve done exactly that…..except you left out the step of using OpenOffice’s built-in “export to pdf” feature. So I (and everyone else I know using open office) can read and write my documents on my linux computer, my windows machine, and my school’s linux machines, and anything that I’m worried about formatting I can export to PDF before sending it. No one needs to be able to edit my CV…..I hope?

  22. Pete
    March 10th, 2008 @ 1:36 pm

    @Chrishas The monopoly will work for as long as people keep blindly buying Microsoft software.
    In my opinion it is Businesses and Academic institutions which will be the main deciding factor and businesses more than academic institutions (in the UK at least) have started to consider Linux desktops.

    Not so long ago the conservative party shadow minister talked about how using open source software could help save money and cut taxes as well as being more environmentally friendly as hardware wouldn’t need to be replaced as regularly!

    @LeftyAce actually I forgot about that feature!
    As long as the document created is intended to be read only then pdf is great, otherwise if you’re using different systems to edit the document or required to submit the work in a particular format as I am, then unfortunately it is best to use the software in which the marker is likely to use!

  23. Simon
    March 10th, 2008 @ 7:46 pm

    Just went to the site and was told that I couldn’t use it (no surprises as I’m running Ubuntu).

    But, I did notice a little feedback link at the bottom right of the page.

    Maybe everyone who reads this should let Microshaft know exactly what they think of their “amazing” new web app? 😉

  24. Bob
    March 10th, 2008 @ 11:01 pm

    Who needs ’em anyway? Office Live is too little, too late.

    I’ve been using Open Office since its release, and Google Apps for a year now. Both work well !

  25. pete
    March 11th, 2008 @ 1:58 am


    I signed up using my windows xp vm then just logged in using ubuntu, uploaded a file fine so it appears that to sign up you need to be using windows but not to use this service!

    Although I could not find anything in the terms of service specifically saying users had to have or be using a particular operating or peace of software and the service runs perfectly in firefox on ubuntu as it does windows!
    I therefore take the opinion this is to detour users who do not have a copy of or even use Mac OS X or Windows!

    As the service allows you to sign in whilst using linux or any other platform I assume it is interoperable even though it won’t let you sign up running linux!

  26. Maarten
    March 13th, 2008 @ 8:51 am

    You can open your documents, but not change them without Microsoft Office….

  27. pete
    March 13th, 2008 @ 1:35 pm

    @ Maarten no but you can download the document, open it in openoffice, edit then upload the edited file.

    I know its not the same as editing it online but I suppose its ok if you do work on one computer upload it then download it on another (if office isn’t installed) to modify it and so on.
    But then you’d be basically using it as a file upload service which there are hundreds of thousands around.

    Microsoft’s greed is what will cause this service to stay in second place to what Google offer!

  28. gocapitalism
    March 23rd, 2008 @ 11:49 am

    Yes….stop capitalism….long live castro…you morons you hate Microsoft because they make money…I would love for you to say you hate capitalism in Russia…We would beat the shit out of you………….you have any idea how much poverty and pain your communist agenda will cause america….boy you need to suffer a little to be able to appr money….you are just to spoiled..

  29. CubanCigar
    March 26th, 2008 @ 3:44 pm


    Wow, capitalism hasn’t done much for your blood pressure, that’s for sure. It would seem as though you’re still suffering. All that hate; must be hard…

    Anyway, you’re missing the point completely, which I won’t even try to explain since I don’t think you’ll be able see past your rage. Pour yourself a Vodka.

  30. Pyotr
    January 5th, 2009 @ 7:20 pm

    Hm… I wonder if User Agent Switcher would get me through…

  31. Anonymous
    June 13th, 2009 @ 4:56 pm

    This is typical of MS. I bet they thought they were being all forward thinking when they included Firefox support; and I’ll wager that they only included OS X support due to the fact Office is the most popular office suite on the mac.

    Sounds a bit lacklustre to be honest. Bless their little hearts.

  32. adrian
    June 20th, 2010 @ 7:29 am

    So its a exclusive storage space….WOW how exciting.
    Using my google.doc I can work on stuff, have friends review it (in Word), edit and reload. Or they can open it in OO instead.
    The price is not bad either FREE.

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