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Microsoft Eyes Consumer Subscription Market With Equipt

Microsoft unveiled a new subscription-based consumer offering that combines an office productivity suite with security and hosted services. The solution, called Microsoft Equipt, will cost $70 for a year's subscription, with a single license covering three PCs. Equipt will be sold starting mid-July through Circuit City retail stores.

The offering, originally known by its code name, "Project Albany," puts Microsoft on a new footing by bringing the subscription model to consumers, according to Bryson Gordon, Microsoft's group product manager.

"We're breaking new ground by delivering Microsoft Office in combination with security and communication tools, plus ensuring our customers are on the cutting edge with the very latest versions," Gordon stated in an April Microsoft press release describing Project Albany. "We found from our research that when you bring these categories together and keep them automatically updated, a subscription model makes a lot of sense."

The Equipt offering includes Excel, OneNote, PowerPoint and Word as part of the Microsoft Office Home and Student 2007 product. Other applications are Web based and accessed through Microsoft Windows Live, such as e-mail, instant messaging and online photo storage. In addition, online file sharing is enabled through Office Live Workspace.

Security and update hassles get addressed in Equipt via Windows Live OneCare, which provides traffic-light-type security alerts and automatic software updates.

Depending on how long consumers go without upgrades, the subscription-based Equipt may save consumers money in comparison with buying the software separately. For instance, Circuit City currently offers Windows Live OneCare 2.0 for $30 and Microsoft Office Home and Student 2007 for $130. Buying the software separately costs a total of $160. If Microsoft continues its current pricing for Equipt, then two years of service would cost $140.

Consumers can get similar applications for free by using productivity suites such as IBM's Lotus Symphony or OpenOffice.org sponsored by Sun Microsystems. In addition, Google provides hosted applications for free with its Google Apps online solutions.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for 1105 Media's Converge360 group.

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