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Microsoft dumps scorecard freebie as launch looms

Microsoft has quietly withdrawn one of its most popular free Office add-ons in order to pave the way for a paid version of the product. As part of the launch preparation for Office Business Scorecard Manager 2005, which is due for release on November 1, Microsoft has removed access to the Business Scorecards Accelerator.

Microsoft has quietly withdrawn one of its most popular free Office add-ons in order to pave the way for a paid version of the product.

As part of the launch preparation for Office Business Scorecard Manager 2005, which is due for release on November 1, Microsoft has removed access to the Business Scorecards Accelerator.

Accelerator is a free download for users of Office 2003 to help them implement the popular Balanced Scorecard business planning and management methodology within the Office environment. While the product is still listed in some download search results on the Microsoft site, clicking those links presents the message: "The download you requested is unavailable."

Accelerator had proved highly popular, with more than 35,000 downloads, according to company officials. At a launch event this week, Microsoft even argued that the experience gained with the Accelerator release mean that the forthcoming Scorecard Manager should be considered a 2.0 product. Despite that, enterprises who want to implement a Balanced Scorecard solution based on Microsoft technology now have now choice but to purchase the full version, which lists from AU$8899 per server plus AU$312 per access licence.

Robin Young, enterprise information worker lead for the information worker business group at Microsoft Australia, said that it was impractical to continue allowing the free and unsupported download when a full commercial version was available. IT managers who inherited systems based on the Accelerator could find themselves unable to support and manage it, he told ZDNet Australia .

Local beta testers of the paid product say that the familiarity of the Microsoft environment is one of the key benefits of the system, but that access to a wider range of data inputs was essential. "One of our main needs is multiple data sources," said Brett Gibson, finance, IT and logistics director for Boots Healthcare, which has been piloting the product for six months.

While Accelerator used an Office interface and could only access data from Microsoft products, the Manager product can handle a wider range of sources and uses Microsoft's SharePoint portal technology.

One challenge for early adopters will be creating SharePoint templates for use within the system. "That's one of the disadvantages of going first," said Gibson, adding that he expected that situation would eventually improve as more pre-defined templates became available via the Office Online site.