Microsoft has decided against releasing a 2009 version of Money Plus, its personal-finance-management software. The company also is planning to discontinue selling Money Plus as a boxed software product at retail -- but insisted the move shouldn't be interpreted as an immediate move away from shrink-wrapped PC software.
Microsoft had been releasing each year a new version of its Money Plus product. A new version was due out this fall, in fact. But according to a blog posting on August 6 to the public Microsoft Money forum by Most Valuable Professional Bob Peel, Microsoft feels annual updates with only incremental improvements are no longer needed.
Peel wrote that he had been asked to post the information by the Microsoft Money Team:
"Microsoft Money Plus continues to be a valuable tool for our customers; however the feedback we are hearing is that the incremental updates to the software don't merit a new product every year. Given this, we have decided against releasing a 2009 version of Money Plus. .. We are moving off of an annual release cycle for Microsoft Money Plus (no Money 2009 version in the fall), with future release dates TBD" (to be determined).
The note continued:
"In response to our retail partners' needs, consumer behavior and business efficiencies, Microsoft is focusing distribution efforts for Microsoft Money Plus software online via download and discontinuing traditional box sales of the software at retail... Microsoft Money Plus will continue to be available at retail outlets while supplies last. We have stopped shipping new product to retail outlets."
The posting said Microsoft is not discontinuing its Money Plus line or its related MSN Money online services.
Microsoft also isn't pulling out of the retail packaged PC software market all together, according to the blog posting.
"Microsoft does not see shrink wrapped software going away anytime soon and we are always talking to customers about different ways to price and package our software offerings. The company is evolving its strategy and product solutions to meet customer demand and optimize business efficiencies."
So what does this latest move mean, not just for Microsoft's personal-finance software future, but for its retail-software-sales strategy overall? Is online-distribution-only the plan for all of Microsoft's consumer wares? What about subscriptions? What about ad-supported freeware?
I've asked the Softies for additional comments. In the meantime, how do you interpret Redmond's latest retail moves?