Later this year, Microsoft will roll out Windows Vista, the successor to Windows XP, as well as Office 2007, a dizzying array of familiar and unfamiliar business applications.

The busiest division at Microsoft, though, is producing online services under the umbrella name of “Windows Live.” The executives claim there’s a unified vision behind the flood of Windows Live products – but take a look at this chart of Windows Live services and see what you think. Looks to me like a heap of things with little in common except the name “Windows Live.”

For what it’s worth, Microsoft is also rolling a collection of business products and services under the name Office Live. The Office Live Basics package is simple web hosting and e-mail, presumably with a bunch of templates and wizards to make it easy.

The Office Live Collaboration package adds access to an online space for storing documents and collaborating on projects within a company as well as with outsiders. It’s built on Sharepoint, a web-based collaboration environment that will be deeply embedded in the new versions of Windows and Office. Bill Gates thinks it’s one of the most important technologies coming out of Microsoft. Sharepoint is complicated! It’s hard to predict whether a small business would embrace the Office Live collaboration tools, or never make it past the learning curve.

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