Microsoft Money Just Wants to Be Free

Microsoft Money Just Wants to Be Free

Summary: Microsoft is abandoning its personal finance software, Microsoft Money, after over 16 years of development and marketing. But why abandon perfectly good software when it could be released to the community as an Open Source project?

TOPICS: Microsoft, Banking

Microsoft is abandoning its personal finance software, Microsoft Money, after over 16 years of development and marketing. But why abandon perfectly good software when it could be released to the community as an Open Source project?

This week, Microsoft announced its intention to cease development and marketing of Microsoft Money, a personal finance application which includes electronic bill and check payment. It seems that after years and years of trying to win this market away from long-standing competitor Intuit, who sells their popular Quicken and Quickbooks, its finally the end of the road for Microsoft Money. Customers are being informed that due to web-based online services by various banking institutions, Microsoft Money has outlived its usefulness.

Click on the "Read the rest of this entry" link below for more.

Well, that may be the excuse that Microsoft is using, but I still think Microsoft Money shouldn't go the way of abandonware. Microsoft does have an option for keeping the product alive, but they'd have to exercise an option that they'd never used before: release the product into Open Source.

Open Source? Who? What? Microsoft? Are you kidding?

Yeah, I'm dead serious. If you think about it, it makes a lot of sense, and it could be a way for Microsoft to test the waters with a developer community that they've never really had the ideal opportunity to interact with before.

Whatever excuse Microsoft is making about web-based banking services taking the place of dedicated applications like Money, the bottom line is that their competitor, Intuit, still charges money for Quicken and manages to make a decent business for software very similar to Microsoft Money. If Money were to be maintained as a community project, the software would provide a huge service for lots of people who need an affordable personal finance program but don't want to pay Intuit $60-$100 each year for updates and maintenance. And QuickBooks? I used to remember having to shell out at least $200 every time they released a new version. Sure, Intuit now has online services for free as well as paid versions, but I'm not sure everyone out there wants to trust their business financial data to a third party company.

In the past, I've suggested that Microsoft Open Source a number of their software products, such as the legacy NT 4.0 and Windows 2000 code, as well as other peices of their portfolio such as Services For UNIX. The biggest argument against any of that was that doing such would potentially cannibalize the revenue streams of the products that replaced them -- IE Windows XP, Windows 2003, et cetera.

But Microsoft Money is about to become abandonware. So any arguments that Open Sourcing Microsoft Money due to some potential to cannibalize the revenue stream of another product are moot. If anything, releasing "OpenMoney" or "FreeMoney" with an OSI-approved license would engender huge amounts of good will and would also hurt Intuit, the company which has been a thorn in Microsoft's side all these years.

Releasing Money into Open Source would give customers choice. How much financial burden are we really talking about here in order to release Money as an Open Source project? Presumably, a hell of a lot less than continuing development and marketing. We're talking about setting up a code hosting environment and designating one or two people at Microsoft to mentor the project on a part-time basis to engage the community, from a pure startup perspective.

Microsoft indeed has been involved in some Open Source activity, under the direction of Sam Ramji and his Open Source Software Lab at Port 25. Most of this activity has been centered around interoperability with Open Source operating systems and projects with Microsoft technologies. But to date no significant Microsoft software asset has ever been released into the community. Microsoft Money could be that first step into not just being interoperable, but for Microsoft to emerge as a valuable Open Source community contributor and project mentor.

Should Microsoft Money be Open Sourced? Talk Back and Let Me Know.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Topics: Microsoft, Banking


Jason Perlow, Sr. Technology Editor at ZDNet, is a technologist with over two decades of experience integrating large heterogeneous multi-vendor computing environments in Fortune 500 companies. Jason is currently a Partner Technology Strategist with Microsoft Corp. His expressed views do not necessarily represent those of his employer.

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
  • MS can't do it, they are a monopoly

    Monopolies are not allowed to release products for free. Intuit would have them in front of an EC judge within seconds and 3 years later, MS would be fined billions of euros for this move.
    • #2 Player, A Monopoly?

      Doesn't this kinda indict that may be they ain't a monopoly.

      Not, of course, that I believe it would stop the EU.
      • Yep......Microsoft is a monopoly - two separate court decisions

        It has now been convicted as such in two separate courts: the EU and South Korea. Given that situation, I don't think there is any doubt.
        • Money is out dated crapware and costs M$ lots of money just

          to support it, its out lived its usefulness, to many newer programs out there that are smarter and more useful, end of story ....... time to move on ....let the fools involved in Linux think they have a deal :-(
          Over and Out
          • Spoken like a true MS Shill

            "let the fools involved in Linux think they have a deal"

            Oh, Really?

            The fools involved with Windows (beyond XP SP2 with plans to move to Linux when necessary) will find one of these days that MS has free access and control of their machine, their software, and their data as long as the machine is plugged in - On, Hibernated, or OFF! As a Microsoft shill, you, of course know this.
    • Intuit isn't a EU company

      but then again they're just doing all of this to "help the consumer" ;)
      John Zern
  • It's not a Conspiracy Theory .... per se ....

    I find it coincidental that the same week the Obama administration puts a Pay Czar in place and starts talking about regulating the pay of financial firms that MS announces they are dumping Money. Think about it. It's not a big leap.

    Per se.
    • That doesnt quite follow.

      I doubt financial firms would keep all of there pay details in MS money.
      • Define Financial Firm

        Is it a bank or a company that facilitates access to your bank? It's too big of a risk to take for them.

        Bottom line dude.
        • It just doesnt make sense.

          Because the pay that would get regulated would not be soley kept in microsoft money clients.
          So MS ditching money would have no impact on it.
          • That's the same as reasoning

            that water is... wet.
            And yes, I agree that grass is green.
          • OKnaf is theorizing that...

            ... Microsoft would be classified as a financial institution, perhaps because of this software. If that were true, then their executive compensation would be under government regulation.

            The theory is that they are divesting themselves of money so that THEIR pay isn't regulated through some obscure definition of what defines a Financial Institution.
    • Sorry, cancelled a year ago

      It was a year ago, probably to the day, that microsoft announced they wouldn't be developing new versions of the product. They used vague wording that left the door open for maybe kinda sorta doing some new development, but even a year ago that possibility seemed pretty remote. Today's announcement was just telling us what we already knew. The Pay Czar had nothing to do with it. Sorry to disappoint you.
    • Lack of Financial knowledge

      It appears we are lacking in a whole lot of financial knowledge here. President Obama's Pay Administrator and Microsoft Money are related like a cat and a dog. They are both anamials but do not interbreed but they can co-exist on the same planet.
  • RE: Microsoft: Money Just Wants to Be Free

    Opening the code up is not the same as releasing a product for free. They could set Money up as a separate not-for-profit foundation a la Mozilla and let this foundation release the product.

    I don't think they'll do it because it would provide a potential product for *nix systems that doesn't exist right now, namely decent tax/business software.

    Maybe SAS will fill that gap, but I agree with J Perlow's statement that many will not wish to trust sensitive data to a third party. Perhaps the data could be local and the software in the cloud?
    • Responses.

      "I don't think they'll do it because it would provide a potential product for *nix systems that doesn't exist right now, namely decent tax/business software."

      First, just because MS opens the code doesn't mean a *nix version of Money would appear. Second, there are already several decent open source business accounting apps; see gnuCash. Third, Money is a personal accounting app, not suitable as a business app.
      • Depends on which flavor you buy...

        They had a home/business version that I ran a tax preparation business from for many years.
  • Respectfully, Jason is completely wrong on this one.

    I'm a fan of Jason's writings, however he is simply wrong on this one.

    The copyright and trademarks for the Money application are worth millions, regardless of whether or not it's marketed or produced.

    In a few years, it wouldn't surprise me to see Money emerge as a SAAS application.

    Jason's statement "If anything, releasing OpenMoney or FreeMoney with an OSI-approved license would engender huge amounts of good will and would also hurt Intuit..." is simply naive (sorry Jas... again, love your stuff... just not this idea.)

    A. It is likely that Microsoft doesn't give a golden-flying-crap about engendering goodwill with the open-source community.

    B. Jason is headed down the right path with the whole Intuit idea... however, there is more value in keeping the closed-source copyright, and either selling it to Intuit, or to an Intuit competitor, if the opportunity arises.

    Now.. Jason is absolutely correct about the notion that releasing the code would make the open-source community happy. But again, I don't think MS gives a rosy-red-doo-doo about that.

    Sadien Staff
    Sadien, Inc.

    • MS Money is my Most Critical Application, Lot to Lose if it goes away

      A. It is likely that Microsoft doesn't give a golden-flying-crap about engendering goodwill with the open-source community.

      MS may not care about the open-source community but they may want to consider Goodwill with personal users in general. I have used MS Money since its inception and continually upgrade thru all the upgrade versions. I have accumulated 17 years of data including detailed financial transactions of every thing I've ever earned or spent/purchased including transaction links to PDF files of invoices, receipts, warranties, etc. Even includes who I had lunch with on this date in 1992 - and includes accounts "Cash in Pocket", Cash in House...! It is like a diary as well as a financial rocording, planning and reporting tool. I've maintained separate files for business, personal, and rental properties - dozens of accounts and tens of thousands of transactions. I do not use or need the online features as I manually balance all transactions - takes less than a minute per month. It is an extremely logical and easy to use program. It is doubtful the information in my MS Money files can be successfully transferred to another program. This is the Most important information I have ever created. IF MS leaves me without any good alternatives in the way of a compatitible and comparable personal accounting solution...I will remember their actions forever. While I've always been a big supporter of MS and their products...dropping MS Money will be a big blow to me. I could live with different Office Software, Database Software, Different Browsers and Operating systems, Search Engines...but, I am very dependent on my specific personal accounting software = MS Money. Lets hope MS responds somehow to these needs as there must be millions out there like me with lots to lose.
      • Me Too...

        I've been using Money for 13 years. I've been looking for a good replacement in the year since MS indicated Money was no longer going to be developed. I haven't found anything I like. The online stuff I've looked at doesn't even come close. GnuCash isn't horrible but it's pretty limited and feels clunky. Only one I haven't tried is the obvious option, Quicken. I guess that's the next thing to try.