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Cybercafe to serve up Microsoft Office suite

The software giant will begin offering consumers its Office software on a pay-per-use basis through a deal with EasyEverything cybercafes.

Software giant Microsoft will begin offering consumers for the first time its Office software on a pay-per-use basis through a deal with EasyEverything cybercafes.

EasyEverything, which operates Internet cafes throughout Europe, will first make the Office 2000 software suite available to customers in its New York cafe, which is slated to open in Times Square Nov. 28.

Customers will be able to access software such as Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint on a pay-per-use basis for a little less than $2 per session, EasyEverything said in a statement last week.

Microsoft was not immediately available for comment.

The move follows Microsoft's aggressive efforts in the heavily touted application service provider (ASP) market. The software behemoth already provides businesses with an option to rent its software through several application hosting partners including Corio, FutureLink and others. ASPs charge businesses monthly subscriptions for the service to access the software from their desktops.

Neil MacDonald, an analyst at Gartner, said the move makes perfect sense. "If you're looking to grow in this (ASP) market, the next logical step would be to (target) the consumers."

Like many other technology providers including Oracle, SAP and IBM, Redmond, Wash.-based Microsoft has made it a top priority to sell its products as a service to try to nab recurring revenue streams. Because the ASP market is still in its infancy and companies are struggling to increase their customer base, MacDonald said the jury is still out on whether consumers will trust this new model.

"It's not the technology barriers that Microsoft and other vendors will have to overcome (in the ASP market), it's the barriers of culture and perception," MacDonald said.

EasyEverything, based in London, said this will be the first time Microsoft has allowed its Office software to be rented out to consumers.

The cafe's customers get anywhere from 20 minutes to 6 hours of Internet access for about $2, depending on how full the cafe is at the time. The use of Microsoft software will carry a fee of about $2, on top of the charge for Internet access. The cafe will give customers up to 12 hours of access for Microsoft programs.

In addition to being able to access Office 2000 applications, cafe customers will also be able to rent Microsoft Works, a software suite for home users, and Encarta, the company's encyclopedia application. EasyEverything said it will eventually offer Microsoft software as a service in all of its existing cafes.

The New York location will contain 800 computers and will be open 24 hours a day. Hewlett-Packard, an investor in EasyEverything, will supply the computers and manage the cafe's network connection and backup systems, EasyEverything said.

EasyEverything runs about 10 cafes in Europe and is scheduled to have 22 by the end of 2000