Microsoft Equipt: good deal, lousy name

Microsoft Equipt: good deal, lousy name

Summary: Microsoft Equipt is a subscription-based combo of Office Home and Student 2007, Windows Live OneCare, and the cloud-based Office Live Workspace service. It worked great when I beta-tested it earlier this year, and at $70 a year for three PCs it's a good deal for most home users. So how come the only retail partner signed up is the struggling Circuit City?


I am baffled by today’s announcement of Microsoft Equipt.

I had a chance to beta-test this product beginning in March, when it was available under the code name Albany. The released product combines Office Home and Student 2007 and Windows Live OneCare, plus access to a cloud-based storage and sharing service called Office Live Workspace. The version I tested was indistinguishable from retail shrink-wrapped versions of the software and worked perfectly.

Today’s announcement adds a price tag to the mix: $69.95 for a one-year subscription, with the right to install the software on up to three different PCs (the same as the shrink-wrapped packages of the two separate products). Office Home and Student 2007 typically costs $129, and the going rate for an annual subscription for a security suite like Windows Live OneCare is about $30 (or $90 for a three-year term), which means the Equipt subscription costs much less upfront and the shrink-wrapped option doesn't hit the break-even point until the end of the third year. Assuming Microsoft updates Office every two or three years, the subscription deal gets even better: Equipt users will be upgraded to the next Office version as soon as it’s available, whereas Office Home and Student 2007 isn’t eligible for upgrade pricing and users would have to pay another $129 to upgrade.

Sounds like a great deal, so why was I baffled?

Well, for starters, there’s the name. Equipt? Seriously? What is that supposed to mean? Presumably, it suggests a “well-equipped PC.” It doesn’t leverage any of the brand equity in the Office name and suggests hardware rather than software or a cutting-edge service.

And Microsoft’s press release delivers co-billing to Circuit City, which is called out in the subhead as if it were an exclusive deal. The body of the press release reinforces this perception: “Microsoft Equipt will be sold in nearly 700 Circuit City stores in the U.S. starting mid-July 2008.” But this part, several paragraphs later, suggests that the exclusivity, if any, is only temporary:

“We are very pleased to be the first partner to offer Microsoft Equipt through nearly 700 Circuit City retail outlets throughout the U.S.,” said Elliot Becker, vice president, general merchandise manager technology, Circuit City.

Mary Jo Foley dug a little deeper:

Starting on or around July 15, Equipt will be sold exclusively through the Circuit City retail chain, but Microsoft is looking to add other distribution channels for Equipt in the U.S. and abroad, said Bryson Gordon, Group Product Manager for Office. Gordon said Microsoft is looking to add other retail partners, PC makers interested in pre-installing the Equipt bundle and other “direct-from-Microsoft” channels over the next 12 months.

It certainly takes some of the luster off today's Microsoft announcement when their exclusive partner, Circuit City, announces bad news on the same day: the white knight (Blockbuster) that had been considering an acquisition of Circuit City has backed out of the deal, two weeks after the company announced big losses. If your major partner is struggling financially and no stronger partners are willing to step up and begin selling this product, what does that say?

As for customers, the most interesting option for the subscription package is as a way to replace the trialware versions of Office normally bundled on new PCs and available for conversion at steep prices. Customers who would resist the $199 price tag of Office Basic or Standard might be willing to pay $70 for a one-year subscription (as long as they don’t need it for business purposes).

Conspiracy theorists can see this as the opening salvo for Microsoft’s attempts to convert all its software, including future versions of Windows, to pay-as-you-go services. Of course, it really isn’t new at all. Businesses that buy into Software Assurance have been paying the equivalent of subscription fees for years, and Microsoft has run trials of subscription software in other countries. The real question is whether this becomes an alternative to conventional open-ended licenses or whether it’s intended to be a replacement.

Topics: Microsoft, Collaboration, Software

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.


Log in or register to join the discussion
  • Just what is "Equipt"?

    This name certainly does not contain any hint as to why someone would want it. Product names should be at least somewhat related to the purpose of the product.

    I also dont like software subscriptions. It seems that they are simply another way to milk the consumer and for someone living on a retirement annuity, as I am,these things get out of hand pretty quickly.
  • Subscription software = BAD

    I can understand subscribing to receive antivirus database updates. I can understand subscribing to periodically receive non-security-related product upgrades (security-related patches should be free). I can understand subscribing for an online newspaper or magazine. I can even understand subscribing for a support agreement.

    I cannot understand paying on a subscription basis for the privilege of using a static, non-updating software program. That's just stupid.

    In short, a subscription needs to continually give something back to me. Once I've bought a software package, on the other hand, it doesn't change. If I never upgrade it I should be able to keep using it indefinitely without paying a penny more.
    • Missing the point

      You're missing the point that your not paying the full retail price for the product, but a small fee that allows you to use it for the year and get free version upgrades as part of the subscription. As Ed pointed out you actually end up paying less then if you bought it up front if a new version of home and student comes out every 3 years. Paying the subscription wouldn't cost more the retail unless you elected not to take the free upgrade when it came out.
      • nah...

        Have you bothered to notice the huge numbers of Office XP, and 2k and earlier that are out there happily doing whatever?

        People just don't see the value in regular software updates.
        • Don't see value or don't want to pay?

          Those older Office copies are around because people don't want to fork over $200+ in a lump sum for an upgrade.

          One advantage to the subscription model is that it smooths out payments in a predictable way instead of demanding large lump sums every couple years. As Apple is trying to prove with the iPhone, people will pay more overall using that model. (And the press will claim that they've lowered the priec!)
          Ed Bott
          • Predictable?

            I'm not too sure about the "predictable" aspect. I purchased Windows Live One Care when it came out for $10 (from Circuit City as well) for a one year subscription and when the year was up, the price tripled. What I would like to know is whether or not Office would continue working after the subscription runs out or if it would be dead in the water. If it continued to work but without updates, then it would be worth the price. For the time being, Office XP is still working fine for me.
    • I can see subscriptions working for some people

      who will like it because they like paying in post inflation price (as long as the price stays the same) or they don't want to shell out for the larger initial price. I think its a personnel choice, I can see reasons why different people would choose to buy it out-right. Considering if you are a student you can frequently buy the software a lot cheaper than $129.00 for Office and I've seen One Care free or extremely cheap. I'm not sure this price is that good a deal.
      I'd like to see the subscription price for each Office component for around $15 an year. And, they can keep their One Care I don't think its too effective.
  • RE: Microsoft Equipt: good deal, lousy name

    MS Office is a great piece of software but if you really want to save $$$ try Novell's Open Office (it handles docx). I use it and when I set up friends computers I install it for them. They don't even realize it's not MS Office.(I set all the defaults to save in MS compatible formats, something oo would do well to add to their set-up wizard). Of course MS Office is a bit tighter and easier to use and has much more eye candy, but most people just want to get a document out, or a presentation, and except for the rare specialist oo's calc is more than people need. And the price $0.00.
    • OO doesn't have every feature

      "most people" in my opinion WANT the best of the best. Unless you're tight on the budget, then OO is your last resort. People don't necessarily want OO. They'll use it if they have to, but everybody knows that they want a full-featured product with less issues like MS Office.

      The people you're talking about either don't have much skills, and could just use WordPad, or are too cheap to buy real productivity software.
      • What 'best of the best' BS are you spouting

        [i]"most people" in my opinion WANT the best of the best. Unless you're tight on the budget, then OO is your last resort. People don't necessarily want OO. They'll use it if they have to, but everybody knows that they want a full-featured product with less issues like MS Office.[/i]

        What is the point of the 'best of the best' when 'good enough is close enough'. Its been proven time and time again that people don't want the best, people want the cheapest and does the job. If it were all about best, we'd be using BetaMax, Windows wouldn't have the marketshare it has today (it would be something like Amiga, Atari, Sun or some other mini-Computer maker).

        As for 'full featured product' - what features aren't in which the average end user needs? "with less issues like office' - which issues are you claiming exist with Spouting off crap without actually nailing down the problems speaks volumes for the lack of substance in what you're claiming.

        [i]The people you're talking about either don't have much skills, and could just use WordPad, or are too cheap to buy real productivity software.[/i]

        'Productivity suit', please, don't get suckered into the buzz words, its pathetic. Comparing WordPad to really shows how pathetically out of touch you are with reality.
      • Proof please.

        Except for IIS enabled backend services such as document sharing or instant message or whatever (not useful to the home user anyway), please illuminate us with all the features that OO doesn't have that Office does. I ask for this any time there is blanket statement someone like you puts out that OO doesn't measure up. Examples required. For the more moderate I have educated them on document merge, change tracking accepting/reject, etc, all things they figured weren't there.

        Well, prove it, what does Office do for the home user that OO doesn't. Will there be a reply from you?

        • One difference

          OpenOffice, like MS Office 2003, is limited to 65,536 rows in a spreadsheet. Office 2007 can handle 1,048,576 rows. The number of columns available is increased in Office 2007 as well, from 256 to 16,384. The lower limit actually caused problems for Barack Obama's campaign organization this spring when they tried to file their reports with the FEC.
          Ed Bott
          • Yes, but Ed, you are reasonable. :D

            There is a clear cut example of a difference. Office has a higher capacity, I remembered the above (the limits, not Office 2007 increasing them). It isn't a missing feature, but is a perk/possibel requirement. What you say certainly isn't a blanket statement that WordPad is equivalent to OO (as alluded to by the original poster).

            So, for folks with spreadsheets that big, definately go with Office 2007, or work with more spreadsheets with 2003/OO. :D


            P.S. I don't see a problem with subscription office, but do find it somewhat disingenuous to tie it to OneCare.
          • Reasonable? Moi?

            How dare you slander me like that?!

            Ed Bott
  • RE: Microsoft Equipt: good deal, lousy name

    I welcome the new name. I used to work as a technical evangelist for Microsoft and we used to argue with corp branding about the crappy product names like "Microsoft Office Professional Enterprise 2007." It's refreshing to see edgy and much shorter name. If they put some marketing dollars behind it they can brand it appropriately.

    It is too bad that it's limited to Circuit City at first. Why wouldn't they offer this online?
  • You can get Office for Home/Student for $112

    on Amazon, AV Comparatives usually ranks One-Care towards the bottom, worse than free AV's such as AVG or Avast, although they're not as full featured.
    I actually don't mind the subscription based model, the devil is in the details. The Office suite alone for a good price point would work because its harder for me justify a large up-front price rather than a smaller subscription price that's spread out over three years, if it seems like a deal. To me, there is value in keeping money in your pocket for a year and it makes sense financially as well. You are paying less money each year after adjusting for inflation, and the interest you could earn on the money. Its why cheapskates like me never overpay the IRS during the year, but prefer to write a small check each April 15th.
  • Is this the beginning of...

    ...the much touted multi-hundred million dollar "new
    partnership" with the "wizards of Crispin Porter +
    Bogusky, a full-service advertising agency, blah, blah
    blah? This sounds perfectly awful from a marketing

    What exactly is the point of this product?

    Is anyone at the wheel at Microsoft or is this yet
    another hangover from the "bad old days" of
    amorphous MSFT marketing.

    How can a company with so much money make such a
    hash of its marketing?

    Are the shareholders watching this screwup again?
    Jeremy W
  • What planet are you on?

    $69 might sound nice, but what happens when the choice is between a visit to the doctor or paying the bill - which if not paid, shuts you out from all the files you have created?

    I have no problems if Microsoft wishes to sell Office, and with a subscription service package ontop of it - as an added bonus/extra. The simple fact of the matter, they're forcing this onto customers - and I can assure you, in New Zealand, they've already experimented with it.

    The number of users who don't understand what 'subscription' means is huge. Many assume that they could still keep using the software after stopping their payments - wrong.

    As for me, if they offered Microsoft Office in AJAX form via the web browser so that I could use it from my computer (I don't run Windows), I might be tempted to pay a subscription.
  • Bad name, but could be good/bad

    I like that MS is giving more choices in the way to purchase something, but that's the most cruddiest name I could think of. Maybe "Microsoft Basics" or anything that doesn't sound like rubbish.

    MS is giving too much subscription services. (ie: Xbox Live, Zune MP, Hotmail Plus, Office Live, etc.). Being dependent on a subscription service can be bad, because you're basically stuck to MS and if you forget to pay a bill, whoops, everything is lost.

    Skip the subscription, and go directly to paying for the whole thing.
  • Seems appropriate

    "Microsoft Equipt: good deal, lousy name"

    MS misspells a word for tools aimed at students;-)
    Richard Flude