Microsoft Dips A Toe In The SaaS Pool

Microsoft only has a few cash cows, but they're enormous cash cows. Their suite of Office programs isn't cheap, and many users just root around for old discs or pirated versions when they're loading up a new PC. Microsoft is trying out offering the software as a service (SaaS) for a $70 per year subscription price, along with a few goodies like their antivirus software. It might be the wave of the future for the Redmond, Washington giant.

Subscription pricing for software has become commonplace in businesses but is a relatively new concept for consumers. The Microsoft Equipt bundle — formerly code-named "Albany" — includes Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote, plus OneCare and a handful of existing free Windows Live applications.

Buying those programs the traditional way would cost about $200, and then consumers who wanted to replace the software with the next version, "Office 14," rumored to be set for a 2009 release, would have to pay full price.

Under the new subscription model, upgrading to a new version is included in the annual cost.

If Microsoft is going to survive and thrive in a world where online virtual computing becomes common, this is probably the only way they're going to do it. People do need something to do between surfing the web for shoe bargains and playing solitaire at work, after all. An Excel spreadsheet or two might fill out your day and get you to five o'clock.