Sabeer Bhatia, co-founder of Hotmail (which he sold to Microsoft) is now trying to take on Microsoft Office and Google Docs, launching an online office suite. While that in and of itself is a perfectly fine (albeit difficult) project, Sabeer’s methods are surprisingly self-destructive. His Live Documents site (a name that makes you think of Microsoft’s Office Live) uses Office 2007’s “Ribbon” interface, designed in Flex, to power document editing, spreadsheets and presentations.
The interface is a near-copy of the one in Office 2007, just with less features, containing the same colors and structure. Microsoft does allow other software developers to use the Ribbon for free and without permission, but the only real rule is that they can’t use it for programs that compete with Microsoft Office. Bhatia is tempting a lawsuit, considering he ignored the guidelines set by Microsoft, and I don’t envy his position.
There is some good stuff, like a plugin that synchronizes documents between Office and Live Docs, and makes it easy to upload, but I wouldn’t rely on a website that is destined to be sued into oblivion. Unless Bhatia is trying to get bought out by Microsoft, Live Documents doesn’t seem set for a long life.