Microsoft can now offer programs as “services” on Web

SEATTLE: Microsoft will begin selling its Office programs to consumers on a subscription basis starting mid-July, in a bid to reach thrifty personal computer buyers who would otherwise pass on productivity software.

The move may set the stage for Microsoft to offer its consumer-oriented programs as “services” over the Web, by acclimatising people to the pricing model such a shift could require.

The software bundle, which includes Microsoft’s Live OneCare computer security software, will be sold at nearly 700 Circuit City stores for $70 per year.

Bryson Gordon, a group product manager for the Office group, said the agreement with Circuit City Stores is not exclusive, and that the bundle will be available at other retailers and on PCs sold by the likes of Dell in future.

Subscription pricing for software has become commonplace in businesses but is a relatively new concept for consumers. The Microsoft Equipt bundle — formerly code-named “Albany” — includes Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote, plus OneCare and a handful of existing free Windows Live applications. Buying those programs the traditional way would cost about $200, and then consumers who wanted to replace the software with the next version, Office 14, would have to pay the full price. — AP

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