Microsoft to discontinue Office subscription version

In the wake of its decision to discontinue OneCare, Microsoft is also axing its Equipt subscription service, which bundled the consumer version of Office alongside the antivirus software.

Microsoft's decision to discontinue OneCare in favor of a new free antivirus product also means an end to Equipt, a $69-per-year subscription version of Office and OneCare that the company had been selling on the shelves of Circuit City.

A box shot of the Equipt product, which only briefly has graced Circuit City's shelves. Microsoft/Circuit City

The copies will be headed out of retail stores in the coming weeks, although the subscription will run through some time next year. But since Microsoft plans to offer free licenses of Office to Equipt customers when their subscriptions end, those existing copies look like a pretty good deal for those who need Office Home and Student--the version of Office included in Equipt.

The company had announced Equipt as something tailored for so-called "tech benches"--services like Best Buy's Geek Squad. However, in the U.S., Circuit City was the only retailer that had started selling Equipt.

Microsoft had hoped to capitalize on the fact that people were already buying subscription security software to upsell them on Equipt. But with Microsoft now planning on giving away security software, that opportunity appears to have gone away.

"It was a very difficult decision for us to shut down Equipt but the fact of the matter is there is this higher order need (to offer free antivirus software)," said group product manager Bryson Gordon. Gordon declined to say how many Equipt subscribers there are, but said the product had met internal sales goals.

"The decision to end-of-life Equipt was not in any way based with sales performance," he said.

Equipt, initially known by the code name Albany, is unlikely to be the last Office subscription service, particularly as Microsoft moves into Web-based versions of its productivity software. The company has also sold prepaid Office subscription cards in some countries.

"What we really are going to turn our attention to is other places where we can build a software plus service offering of Office like we sold on a subscription basis," Gordon said.

As for existing Equipt subscribers, they not only will get a free license to Office Home and Student, they can also call and cancel their subscription, get a pro-rated refund and still get the copy of Office. Gordon said that Equipt buyers tended to be Microsoft's early adopters and said that "We really want to make sure they are taken care of."

About the author

    During her years at CNET News, Ina Fried has changed beats several times, changed genders once, and covered both of the Pirates of Silicon Valley. These days, most of her attention is focused on Microsoft. E-mail Ina.

     

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