Microsoft Office Up For Rent

Dennis Faas's picture

Microsoft is experimenting with the idea of renting its software rather than only having it available to buy out-right. The scheme, codenamed Albany, would allow US users to pay a monthly subscription for a package of software which would likely comprise Word, Excel, PowerPoint and anti-virus software.

Users in some developing countries can already rent Office, and Microsoft's OneCare security package is already available for annual subscription in America.  However, this would be the first time Office could be rented in a major market like the US.

The company believes the biggest selling point will be that, for as long as a user is subscribing, the software will automatically update every time a new version is released. Bryson Gordon, who's heading the Albany project, said users were frustrated by "having to spend time and effort installing different types of software, keeping current on new versions and getting their computers set up." (Source:

There's also some speculation the scheme is designed to counter the threat from companies such as Google which offer free office-style software via their website with no need to install programs on a computer. (Source:

As plans stand, each subscription to the Microsoft scheme will cover up to three computers. Once a subscription expires the customer will lose access to the software but will keep their documents.

The big detail that's currently missing is the price. The New York Times points out that current subscribers to OneCare would be paying the equivalent of $100 a year if they bought a new edition of Office outright every three years. That sum drops to $80 if you buy through a special Amazon deal.

Given that subscription services usually work out more expensive, a 'fair' price would probably be around $10 to $12 a month. However, a reduced price around the $7 mark might be more profitable by increasing the number of customers, while it's even possible Microsoft could offer a free edition supported by advertising. (Source:

Something Microsoft isn't discussing publicly is that a cut-price subscription deal might deter people who are currently tempted to install pirated copies of the software because they feel the purchase price is too high.

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