Today, Microsoft announced a private beta of a subscription service codenamed “Albany” which apparently is intended to reduce the complexity of consumer setup and maintenance of home PCs.
“Albany” is the codename for a new all-in-one subscription service of essential software and services consumers told us were most important to them. We’ve pulled together the productivity tools people need to organize their lives, security to help keep their personal information safe and online services that make it easy for them to keep in touch with friends and family, and folded them all into a single service that also ensures the user’s PC is running the latest security and productivity software.
With just a few clicks, “Albany” subscribers will be able install the whole package, which includes Microsoft Office Home and Student 2007, giving them the latest versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote for their personal and school projects; Windows Live OneCare to help keep viruses at bay and their computer fast and healthy; and Windows Live Mail, Messenger and Photo Gallery so they can connect and share with others. Albany also installs the Microsoft Office Live Workspace connector on the Microsoft Office toolbar, so users can save documents to their own dedicated online workspace and invite friends and classmates to collaborate and share.
Additionally, with “Albany” consumers get the latest versions of Microsoft Office Home and Student and Windows Live OneCare as they’re released. Combined with ongoing security updates, consumers can have the peace of mind that they have protection from the most recent security threats and that their PC is running at its peak.
It sounds like the load of crapware that comes on a new PC, doesn’t it? And I’m sure that will be the favored marketing method. Buy a new PC and break out your credit card again when you get it home. I also think the provision of the newest versions of Office when and if one arrives during the subscriber’s “lease” is fraught with peril. Particularly if Microsoft does another huge user interface overhaul like they did with Office 2007.
Still, it’s all about the price and if the subscription is cheap enough it might be a good deal for consumers and help stave off free Office competitors like Google Docs. No prices were announced since it is a beta, so we’ll have to defer judgment.
Finally, Mary Jo Foley is apparently the only reporter who asked what happens if a subscriber stops paying. Microsoft says that he’ll have to purchase a full price copy of Office to access his data, but a little thought would suggest that there are other, cheaper alternatives although they may not be apparent to the average consumer.