Microsoft has given its new Office-based software-plus-service bundle a new name -- "Equipt" -- and a due date (mid-July), company officials said on July 2.
Equipt is the product/service that was formerly codenamed "Albany" (and inside Microsoft, known as "ValueBox"). Equipt, which Microsoft describes as its "essential set of software and services for consumers," includes a version of Office Home and Student 2007; Windows Live OneCare, Microsoft's PC management/security bundle; a few Windows Live communication/collaboration services; and Office Live Workspace, Microsoft's online-collaboration add-on to Office.
Equipt will cost $69.99 annually (for a license that can be installed on three PCs in a user's home). If and when Microsoft introduces any updates to any of the Equipt components during the year, subscribers will be entitled to receive them automatically for free as part of their paid subscription.
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.
"We view this as a new way for consumers to experience Office," Gordon said, that will take them beyond Office's productiity focus and current licensing/distribution models.
Microsoft is not planning to discontinue its standalone versions of Office Home and Student, Windows Live OneCare or other elements of the Equipt bundle, Gordon emphasized. Microsoft also will continue to offer its low-end Microsoft Works suite, as well. Microsoft is currently testing a free, ad-supported version of Works preloaded on selected PCs, and is continuing to sell a paid version of the suite, as well.
Microsoft began signing up testers for Albany in March 2008. Testers have had their hands on the Equipt bundle since April.
As I've said before, Microsoft isn't positioning Equipt/Albany (at least not publicly) as a competitor to Google Docs. But to me, the bundle is definitely aimed at a key constituency that is looking at Google Docs -- namely students and home-office types. Unlike Google Docs, Equipt comes with a PC-based version of an Office suite, as well as a security service. But Google Docs, unlike Equipt, is free....
Do you think Equipt will appeal to consumers? Will it siphon off any potential Google Docs users?