After a number of Microsoft beta testers received last week cryptic invitations to test a new product codenamed "Albany," the guessing games began as to exactly what Albany was.
While invited testers still have not received any Albany code, theories regarding exactly what Albany is have gotten a lot more refined. It's now sounding as if Albany is going to be Microsoft's newest attempt to head off Google Docs -- at least in the consumer space (which is where Google Docs is strongest).
Last week some testers told me they thought Albany could be some kind of home Software+Services bundle built around Microsoft Works. But now testers are thinking that Albany is more likely a bundle of new versions of three existing Microsoft products.
According to one source, the three Albany components are going to be Windows Live OneCare, Office Live Workspace and Office Home and Student Edition. Microsoft is referring to the bundle of three, unnamed products/services as a "ValueBox," suggesting that Albany ultimately will be sold in a box at retail, testers said.
(According to a beta-sign-up screen shot submitted by one tester, ValueBox might be at least part of the final name for Albany. It says: "ValueBox brings together three great Microsoft products and services to meet common needs of home PC users.")
Microsoft officials have declined to comment on what Albany is. But according to the beta invite sent to former Office and OneCare testers:
“'Albany' targets home PC users, and includes Microsoft software and services that meet the most common needs of PC consumers, plus new features that create an easy, clean experience. Because 'Albany' is designed for consumers, not enterprise customers, we recommend that you install the Beta on a home PC, though this would not be a requirement."
Given that Microsoft has found one of the biggest user bases for its Office Live Workspace (its collaboration service add-on to Office) to be students, it's not too surprising that Microsoft might be testing ways to make that offering more of a compelling competitor to Google Docs. By making a version of Office part of the Albany suite, Microsoft also would try to preserve the "software" element of its proposed solution.
If Albany is an Office Home and Student Edition/OneCare/Office Live Workspace bundle, would you be interested in it?