Microsoft Confirms "Value Box" App Suite

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Microsoft has confirmed it is developing a set of applications and services codenamed “Albany,” designed to provide users with the essentially productivity features of the company’s flagship Office productivity suite, combined with Windows Live OneCare and online collaboration and sharing features. Word of Albany began to leak last money when Microsoft began asking selected customers and partners to participate in a private beta. And while speculation had Microsoft offering up a set of Microsoft Works-like features on a subscription basis, the company has been referring to Albany has a “value box,” indicating the Redmond giant plans to offer Albany as a retail product. And instead of being a warmed over version of Microsoft Works, Albany looks to tie together with the Home Office/Student Edition of Microsoft Office, along with elements of OneCare and Windows Live Workspaces.

Albany is apparently intended to compete against free productivity application offerings like OpenOffice and Google Apps, covering what the company believes to be the essential productivity and sharing functions consumers expect from a computer without the high price tags and extensive feature sets of the full version of Microsoft Office—which comparatively few users need on a regular basis.

In addition to Word, Excel, and PowerPoint applications, Albany will reportedly feature tie-ins to Office Live Workspaces, enabling customers to store and share documents via the Internet directly within Office applications. Microsoft will also roll in Windows Live OneCare, its own security, antivirus, and firewall service aimed at keeping Windows computers safe, along with consumer-level email, photo-sharing, instant messaging, and other online components via Windows Live.

Microsoft hasn’t set any pricing or release date for Albany, saying only that it will be offered on a subscription basis. Reports have Microsoft considering a public beta for the product before the end of 2008.

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