Microsoft is calling the service Equipt, and will offer it exclusively through Circuit City beginning in mid-July. Subscriptions cost $69.99 for one year and cover use of the included software on up to three PCs. Subscribers will automatically receive upgrades to the products at no additional charge as they are released.
In offering software subscriptions to consumers, Microsoft is taking a page from its business playbook. The company offers its commercial customers subscription access to software and services under programs such as Open License and Select Plus.
Microsoft and Circuit City officials are hoping that the subscription model -- which offers predictable costs and convenient, all-in-one packaging -- will catch on in the home market. Microsoft Office product manager Bryson Gordon called Equipt "a convenient and affordable way to stay updated with the latest versions of Office and Windows Live OneCare."
Circuit City technology merchandise general manager Elliot Becker said the chain, which saw its stock price drop by more than 17% Wednesday after Blockbuster abandoned a $1.35 billion buyout offer, said he expects Equipt to be "a runaway hit."
Microsoft Office 2007, the most recent version of the suite, includes the Word, Excel, and PowerPoint applications. Windows Live OneCare is an integrated set of PC security and optimization tools that can be accessed over the Web.
Equipt may appeal to consumers who want to stay on technology's cutting edge. However, most desktop users only use their applications' most basic functions and as a result do not require frequent upgrades. Given that the Home version of Office 2007 now sells for just $112 for lifetime rights, the latter group would likely see Equipt, with its $69.99 annual fee, as a bad bargain.