Microsoft Launches Beta of SW Subscription Svc.

It's been bandied around for some time: a subscription-based version of Microsoft Office, and on Friday, Microsoft launched just such a service, code-named Albany, in private beta form.  Albany includes more than just Office, however.

“Albany” is the codename for a new all-in-one subscription service of essential software and services consumers told us were most important to them. We’ve pulled together the productivity tools people need to organize their lives, security to help keep their personal information safe and online services that make it easy for them to keep in touch with friends and family, and folded them all into a single service that also ensures the user’s PC is running the latest security and productivity software.

With just a few clicks, “Albany” subscribers will be able install the whole package, which includes Microsoft Office Home and Student 2007, giving them the latest versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote for their personal and school projects; Windows Live OneCare to help keep viruses at bay and their computer fast and healthy; and Windows Live Mail, Messenger and Photo Gallery so they can connect and share with others. Albany also installs the Microsoft Office Live Workspace connector on the Microsoft Office toolbar, so users can save documents to their own dedicated online workspace and invite friends and classmates to collaborate and share.

Additionally, with “Albany” consumers get the latest versions of Microsoft Office Home and Student and Windows Live OneCare as they’re released. Combined with ongoing security updates, consumers can have the peace of mind that they have protection from the most recent security threats and that their PC is running at its peak.

The beta program we’re announcing today spans a broad cross-section of users and is an integral part of bringing a new service to market.

Yep, it's a private beta, so don't expect to see it available for the consumer.  One big missing piece of info: pricing.  We would also say its clever to bundle in OneCare, as one segment of software where subscription services are common is AV software.  Naturally, that doesn't make us feel any better about using Microsoft's much-maligned (though improving) AV solution.