Live@Edu – not ready for primetime

October 4, 2010 § 4 Comments

Quite honestly, I wish I didn’t have to write this post.

I really wanted Live@Edu – heck, the whole Office Live thing whether you’re part of Live@Edu or not – to work.  And it didn’t.  It just flat out doesn’t work the way I think it should.  It is completely counter-intuitive, and downright confusing.

I’m not one of those fly-by-night complainers who tries something for 5 minutes and then throws up his hands in disgust.  I almost always figure that I’m missing something obvious and have other people try to help me figure things out. I will give a product way more than a fair shake, and probably a lot more time than it deserves before I decide that it doesn’t need any more of my time.

The final straw for me was sharing items that were in a folder.

I went about sharing the normal way, you know, putting in the email addresses of the people I wanted to share with, and figured that whatever I’d shared would show up under “shared with me” when those users logged in and looked at their sky drive.

Not so.

Not even close.

Evidently, after you share an item, you have to send the person a message letting them know that you’ve shared it.  That message will include a link to the shared resource,  which they can click on to get to it, but even after clicking it, the item only shows up in “recent documents” and not under “Shared with me.” And to top it all off, you have the ability to “skip this step” when you’re sharing, which is exactly what I did at first because I (wrongly) assumed that the “Shared with me” area would actually show shared items.

So what gives, Microsoft? Why even have “Shared with me” if nothing that’s shared with me is going to show up there?

I can only imagine what would happen if we tried to turn out this product to teachers.  Teachers are a pretty resilient bunch, and they’ll give something a lot of chances, too. But if it’s not intuitive, and if they have to keep asking the same questions over and over again, they’re going to get tired of it and stop using the technology.

Technology needs to be easy for teachers to use, and Live@Edu is most certainly not.

It’s a shame because it could be so much better. It just looks like Microsoft was trying to catch up to Google, and they only did a half-hearted job of it.

So, to sum things up…here are the reasons I’m going to not recommend Live@Edu for our district:

  1. we have to block the email piece instead of being able to turn it off completely
  2. navigation within Live is inconsistent (hover to get some menus, click to get others) and confusing (Hotmail showing at the top when we have Outlook, New PowerPoint Presentation not takes you to a list of recent documents).
  3. Getting to shared documents is close to impossible, most certainly not intuitive.

And here’s the rub…we weren’t really even evaluating it for any of those features, but I know how things work.  If you start to use a product for one thing, but it has additional features, those features are going to get used, and you’re going to get support calls about it.  If you support one part of it, you have to support all of it.

I still love the mesh piece of it. You get more free storage space than anywhere else I’ve seen online, AND the ability to sync between multiple devices is absolutely killer.  It is the best I’ve seen, and if we were evaluating that alone, I would recommend Microsoft over Google, especially with the recent announcement that Google made about purchasing additional storage space for their Google Apps customers.

Seriously, Google, for as much stuff as you give away, you’d think you could spare a little more space in the cloud.  But even if you can’t, charging $70 per user per YEAR for 20 additional gigs seems a little silly, especially when Microsoft is giving away 25 gigs to anyone who comes calling.

So, unless someone in my department has something amazing to tell me about Live@Edu at the end of the week, I’m pretty much done with it.  I’m not about to put my time and effort into something that is going to confuse and overwhelm our teachers.

We need something easy. We need something intuitive. Come on, Microsoft…free doesn’t have to mean poor quality.

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§ 4 Responses to Live@Edu – not ready for primetime

  • We’re considering both of these products. I was wondering if you have any more information on the google apps side?

    I agree that the Microsoft product just doesn’t seem to work as well, my staff members who are working on this have yet to find where a teacher would go to build a web site.

    On the other hand, the Google docs still have a few glitches when uploading/editing native Microsoft Office files.

    • Scott says:

      Hi John…we’re still evaluating both. From a functionality standpoint, Google is much more intuitive, but the problem is, it doesn’t solve the original issue. We started looking at both of these products as a replacement, or at least a solid supplement to our in house network storage. Google doesn’t provide enough storage space to make it a viable solution, and Live@Edu has so many things that don’t work that it completely overshadows the awesomeness of the sky drive and live mesh.

      We haven’t come across any deal breakers yet as far as uploading and editing MS files, but I did notice when I uploaded a spreadsheet the other day, when it converted, the images that were in the spreadsheet did not show up. If it does that for Word documents too, it could be a problem.

  • The storage space for us isn’t as much of an issue. 1GB for file uploads, with unlimited document space for native google docs is more than enough for our users. We were looking for the piece that starts with email and moves into the future, instead of having a separate single function systems.

    I like the idea of narrowing the digital divide by providing resources that will do all of the ‘office’ stuff, with collaboration, no matter where you are (or what your station may be) at the moment.

    I also see the future in products like Google Wave, where you get real time messaging and collaboration on a single screen.

    Please keep posting though, I’m happy to see that someone else is taking an interest in what’s out there.

  • […] The Windows 8 Tiles UI is really cool, but even there, Microsoft failed to get it 100% right. You would they would want to spend the time to get everything right before releasing it, but to me, it felt like they’d taken several different teams of people, had each one come up with different parts of the UI and then lumped them all together and said “here’s Windows 8″ without really checking for consistency among the different moving parts. It felt a lot like my experience with Live@Edu. […]

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