Facing pressure from hosted productivity suites such as Google Docs and Google Apps, Microsoft is planning a new package of low-end productivity software and hosted services through a secretive project code-named Albany.
Project Albany puts together a combination of Office, Office Live Workspaces, Windows Live OneCare and the Windows Live suite of services in one package that eventually is expected to be available in retail outlets such as Best Buy, sources familiar with the company’s plans said Wednesday.
The sources, who asked not to be named, said Microsoft is asking select testers to try out the Project Albany beta, but is requiring them to sign a non-disclosure agreement just to participate in the test. The main focus of the initial beta is to test the unified installer for the package, they said.
Office is Microsoft’s enormously successful productivity suite, and it’s unclear how much of that product will make it into Albany. Because of its price points and functionality, Office Home and Student 2007, which includes Word, Excel and PowerPoint, is the most likely candidate for inclusion in the new suite, which is expected to be fairly low-cost. Office Home and Student 2007 retails for US$149.95, about US$250 less than Office Standard 2007 — which in addition to Word, Excel and PowerPoint also includes Outlook and has a list price of US$399.95.
Other products that are expected to be a part of Project Albany are hosted services Microsoft has developed over the past few years. Office Live Workspaces is Microsoft’s hosted service for storing and sharing documents online, while Windows Live OneCare is a security service that includes firewall and antivirus protection. Windows Live services include hosted e-mail, search, photo-sharing and other services; it is also not certain at this time which of these services will be a part of Albany. However, one source said the Windows Live products included in Albany will be client-side applications such as the desktop version of OneCare, Windows Live Messenger and Windows Live Writer, not hosted services.
Through its public relations firm Wednesday, Microsoft confirmed that it sent out beta invitations for a product code-named Albany, but declined to share additional details.