Microsoft said today that it will pull the plug on its Money personal finance program at the end of this month, citing competition from banks, brokerage firms and unspecified Web sites as the reason.
The company posted the the announcement to the front page of the Microsoft Money site on Wednesday, saying that it will end selling the software, which has been available for 18 years, after June 30. Copies purchased prior to that must be activated no later than Jan. 31, 2010.
"The consumer need for Microsoft Money Plus has changed," the company said in the message, while a follow-up FAQ noted that "as more users shift their attention to full-service offerings provided by banks and brokerages, demand for a comprehensive personal finance toolset has declined."
Last August, Microsoft stopped selling Money at retail and said it was halting annual updates. Since then, Microsoft has only sold the package as a download at prices from $50 to $90.
Microsoft's move will eventually leave users in the lurch, as its online services -- which include connections to banks and online bill pay -- expire one or two years after Money was activated, depending on the edition. Online services in the pricier Money Plus Deluxe, Premium and Home & Business version, for example, go dark two years after activation.
The company will provide support for Money until Jan. 31, 2011, however.
Microsoft has struggled for years to compete with Intuit and its Quicken personal finance software, which accounts for the bulk of the market.
"Does this mean that desktop personal finance software is going away? We say no," said Intuit spokesman Scott Gulbransen today. "We have a huge number of customers who want a desktop solution, and that's not going to change."
In fact, said Gulbransen, Intuit hopes to draw long-time Money users to Quicken now that Microsoft's giving up on the business. "We're working on ways we can help mitigate the interruption for Microsoft's customers," Gulbransen said. "We want to make it easier for them to switch to Quicken."
Those steps may include a revamped import process that would do a better job of converting several years' worth of data from Money's format to Quicken's or perhaps a special offer to get Money users to switch. "We're taking a look at showing them the value of our product," Gulbransen said.
Current Money users confirmed that they had received e-mails from Microsoft announcing the program's demise. But some of them didn't take well to the news.
"This is the worst thing I have ever seen in the history of computers," said someone identified as William Wood on a Microsoft support forum today.
"I need Money forever. Our financial records are crucial. Switching to Quicken is not an option. Last time I checked Quicken could not import Money files. My data goes back to 1980 and I frequently use and refer to that old data."
Others, however, were more pragmatic, simply wanting advice on how to pull data from Money into Quicken. "Perhaps we need a wiki or something to develop a community body of knowledge about how to extract our financial lives from Microsoft Money," said Dick Watson on the same thread.
"I'm even thinking of buying another license just to preserve two more activations between now and January 31, 2011," Watson continued. "That's really sick, I know, sending them more money at this point. And the thought of having to keep one of those installations running until I die is just too bizarre to contemplate."
A Microsoft support document outlines how Money users can export their financial information.