Slowly but surely, Microsoft is looking to grow its user base by giving away entry-level SKUs of its products.
The latest freebie: Office Accounting Express 2007, the new, low-end of its not-so-popular small-business accounting software line.
Microsoft made the Express version of its small-business accounting product available for free download, starting on October 30, via a free, “no-strings-attached” license, according to the company.
The Office Accounting Express SKU is interesting for a couple of reasons. First -- although Microsoft officials (obviously) aren’t portraying the positioning of the product this way -- the Office Accounting desktop software is a loss leader for Microsoft, with potential revenues coming in from the add-ons that Microsoft is hoping customers will purchase on a subscription basis.
Among the paid, add-on services for the free Express product:
• ADP Payroll: $169 per year. Electronic filing available for an additional $60 per year. ADP Total Payroll Service: “Customized price as specific pricing depends on the number of employees, frequency of payroll and additional services requested."
• Credit card processing via Chase Paymentech: $9.95 per month.
• PayPal payment services: CCP Plan for $9.95 per month, plus $20 per month in bank-processing charges. PayPal Payments Pro credit card processing is available for a monthly fee of $20.
• Marketplace services: Up to 80 free listings/downloads per month for Basic; up to 200 listings/downloads per month for $9.95; each additional listing/download after the 200th costs an additional .05 cents.
• Equifax credit-profile service: Pay per use. Business credit reports on your own business, from $4.95 and up. Credit report with score: from $39.95 and up.
The Express SKU also integrates directly with a number of other, paid Microsoft products, including Microsoft Office, Dynamics Point of Sale and the forthcoming Office Online.
The Office Express 2007 product also sports the same upgrade scheme as Vista will with the Windows Anytime Upgrade capability.
Microsoft is including both the Express and the Professional versions of the Office Accounting product on the same disk. By purchasing an upgrade key from Microsoft or a reseller partner, users will be able to move relatively seamlessly to the $149, more feature-rich version of Office Accounting Professional.
(Office Accounting Professional 2007 is the successor to Office Small Business Accounting 2006.)
As explained in Microsoft’s fact sheet, “starting Oct. 30, 2006, Office Accounting Express 2007 can be converted to a trial version of Office Accounting Professional 2007. In early 2007, Office Accounting Professional 2007 will be available for an estimated retail price (ERP) of $149 for a full version or $99 (ERP) for a version upgrade for Microsoft Small Business Accounting 2006 users.”
Office Accounting Express 2007 is the latest member of a growing family of Microsoft products aimed at nonprofessional/home programmers and users. Microsoft made Visual Studio Express available for free in April 2006. The company also offers a free, entry-level version of SQL Server, known as SQL Server Express.
Microsoft also has made available for download a new Office Accounting software developer kit (SDK) and a utility that facilitates transaction transfers from Intuit’s Quickbooks to Office Accounting.
Wonder what other software the Redmondians will offer for free next? Maybe they should have considered making Windows Vista Home Basic free, given the growing sentiment among partners and company watchers that it’s worth next-to-nothing ….