Microsoft Corp announced its plans of testing subscription pricing for its Office suite. Instead of installing each program separately, a limited number of "beta" testers can
download a bundle of Microsoft Word, Excel and other Office programs, the Windows Live One Care antivirus program, Windows Live Mail and other free Windows Live programs. The Redmond, Washington-based software maker said the software subscription bundle will be more widely available later this year, but did not say how much it will cost.
But instead of paying upfront (about $150 for Office Home and Student 2007), subscribers will pay in regular installments for as long as they wish to use the programs. Even if PC users stop paying, their documents would still work with other programs or on other computers. Microsoft Corp said that it is still figuring out how often subscribers would be billed and how would the subscription schedules and payment installments work out once the plan is rolled out.
When Microsoft fixes a bug or releases the next generation of Office, subscription customers receive the new version over the Internet. For consumers, that means less hassle; for Microsoft, that means steady revenue between major product launches.
But that doesn't mean Microsoft will stop selling packaged software in retail stores or online. It will continue to go with its conventional marketing strategy as it has been doing successfully over the years.
"There will always be a significant number of users for whom purchasing a perpetual license to the latest version of Office is still the best choice," said Bryson Gordon, a group product manager at Microsoft.