Microsoft to sell Office 'value pack' for US$70 per year

Microsoft will charge US$69.99 for its new Equipt software package, which includes Office, Live Care and other services

Microsoft has chosen the name "Equipt" for a forthcoming package of products that includes its Office suite, Internet security software and other services, and will sell it for an annual subscription fee of US$69.99.

A Microsoft Australia spokespeson said Microsoft Equipt is currently being offered on a limited basis in US retail and is not available for broad distribution.

"However, we are always looking at new and different way to address the needs of our customers. We do not have anything else to announce at this point."

Equipt, which was formerly known by its code name, Albany, includes Office Home and Student 2007, Windows Live OneCare, Office Live Workspaces, Windows Live Mail, Live Messenger and Live Photo. Microsoft plans to begin selling it in the US on July 15 through Circuit City, with other outlets to follow.

The name comes from the idea that the package will help customers "equip their PC with a core set of services," said Bryson Gordon, a group product manager for Microsoft Office. "It resonated well with customers in testing."

Indeed, the name is more succinct than Microsoft has used for some other Office products, including unwieldy names like Microsoft Office Professional Plus 2007 and Microsoft Office Outlook with Business Contact Manager.

Rumors began circulating in March that Microsoft was devising a new way of packing Office to help it better compete with Google Docs and other free or low-cost productivity suites. The company sent out invitations to a select few, asking them to test a mysterious new project code-named Albany.

The company asked people to sign nondisclosure agreements just to sign up for the test. In April, Microsoft confirmed the products that would be available in the package.

Gordon played down the effort to compete with Google Docs and other free office suites, such as IBM Symphony. He said Equipt is aimed at people who are interested in purchasing a PC security suite -- such as Windows Live OneCare -- and might forgo buying Office as well in favor of using an older copy they might already have, or that they might pirate. "We're lowering the barrier to entry" for those customers, he said.

Because Equipt is such a "complicated value proposition" to understand, Microsoft is selling it first through Circuit City because the store's staff has been trained to explain it to customers, and because it has successfully handled other Microsoft product campaigns, Gordon said.

Microsoft determined the US$69.99 subscription rate by taking into account the pricing for Windows Live OneCare, which costs $49.99 a year, and the pricing for Office Home and Student 2007, which has a one-time license fee of $149.99, Gordon said. It also took input on pricing from the beta testers, he said.

Customers can load Equipt on up to three PCs for the yearly subscription fee.

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