MSN has announced an open beta for their Microsoft Office Live Workplace. The idea behind the new service came from millions of Office users requesting access to their files via the net.

Could this be due to Google Docs ability to share your personal work with a group or collaborate on a project together, regardless of your OS over the internet? Well if that was what sparked the idea, Microsoft sure buggered it up.

Yes you have access to your files, and yes, you can even access other file and image types. The catch is the same as it has always been with Microsoft; you need to have Office.

I have some free advice for you Microsoft (Guy Gilbert): Try not being such a corporate miser.

If you truly want to compete with Google, you’re going to have to give more than “free access” to the Office Live Workplace. The only thing that I need to take advantage of Google docs, other a computer with a connection to the internet, is a Google account (it’s free, you can use your current email address, and any browser.)

Personally, I see a huge opportunity missed here. Non-Office users may want to try this out, but can’t without making a purchase of MS Office.

What I would have done is provide free access to a web application that simulates the user interface of Office; allowing the user to benefit from the “Live” version of Office, while at the same time exposing them to the product. You kill two birds with one stone. The current users are happy and Microsoft has gained exposure to people who may have never given Office a second look. As for the quality… well, I don’t use it, so I honestly can’t say (my Xbox 360 is the only MS product to make it into my house.)

I started this post off with a question and I think I answered it too. While I do favor Google, I also want to see their competitors keep them on their toes. (Yah, I’m talkin’ to you too Yahoo! with your “Open Search”)

While I’m at it, I’d like to mention the awesome new features that are provided with the new Excel in combination with AdCenter. Same catch as above, you must have the new Excel program. While I thank you for the invite to check it out, I am quite happy with what AdWords has to offer. Come up with something web based, and we can talk.