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Microsoft Thinks, Sells Outside the Box With Money

Users of Microsoft Money can step off the upgrade treadmill -- and stop worrying about fighting traffic to get to a store when they do buy a new version. Money product manager Chris Jolley wrote in a blog post on Friday that the company would not ship a 2009 edition of this personal-finance application and had also stopped selling boxed copies in stores:

We've decided against releasing a 2009 version of Money Plus boxed product. Microsoft Money Plus distribution efforts will focus on selling software online via download, and we have discontinued traditional box sales of the software at retail. I doubt this surprises many of you, especially those who've discussed with me how annual releases don't make much sense for a product that's in its 17th version.

On one level, these moves make perfect sense. It's not as if personal-finance apps need yearly updates in the first place; the instruments of most people's financial lives change little from one year to the next (aside from the horrifically complicated, insultingly impenetrable tax code). And selling something only as a download can save money and energy all around, provided the file isn't too big.

But on another, Jolley is committing a grave sort of heresy in the personal-finance business. For the past few years, both Microsoft and its competitor Intuit have required customers to buy new versions with "sunset" policies that turn off access to online services -- from account downloads to stock quotes -- for older versions.

How is Microsoft supposed to keep its customers jogging along on the upgrade treadmill without a new version to sell them? Then again, this isn't a complete change of course; in a brief phone interview Tuesday evening, Jolley said Microsoft's sunset rule, its "Online Services Policy", remains unchanged. That could lead to some awkward moments. For example, Money 2007's online support will expire Sept. 1 of next year -- but the only upgrade option for those users will be Money Plus, already over a year old.

I am glad to see Microsoft rethinking the yearly release calendar, but it ought to extend these reforms to its sunset policy.

I don't have any problem with the end of boxed copies; they just take up space at home and waste paper. But I've had broadband for almost a decade now, and I could be a little jaded about all this. Do you care what form your software arrives in?

By Rob Pegoraro  |  August 12, 2008; 10:53 AM ET
Categories:  Productivity  
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Comments

No the download did me fine.

My MS Money tale of woe:

I've been using Quicken, then Money, since 1996. I have been using MS Money 2002 since, well, 2002. I connected to bank and multiple credit cards, and was generally happy, and saw no need to upgrade. There was simply no benefit.

However, after one of my credit cards recently changed, I had to recreate it's online connection. To my shock and horror, I found out after multiple failures that users of old versions couldn't create, or recreate, any connections through Money. (Actually, I hadn't even realized MS was acting as a broker for this service).

So I sprung for the new version, including the absurd rebate process, downloaded the new, installed it, and attemtpted to open my data file. Bang, program hangs. Again, and again, and agin, it hangs trying to convert my data file into the 'new version'.

Online chat support not available at that moment. Of course. No mention of this in their public forums (the new support model - get volunteers and fellow victims to do it.)

Since the program was now always looking for the corrupt data file, it wouldn't start and was unusable. I solved the problem by renaming the data file, restarting the program in a new profile, then using the programs 'repair data file' functionality, then renaming that file to the new profile. (Thank god I do support for a living).

And of course, now I know I'll only be getting a year and half out of the program, rather than 6.

The programs nice, but I doubt I'll ever be recommending it. I use it because we have developed a routine for bill paying based upon it. Nothing more.

My $.02...

Posted by: JkR | August 12, 2008 3:03 PM | Report abuse

So long as they don't restrict the number of downloads like Apple does, I don't care if I have to download my software. With the exception of developer tools that typically have HUGE (over 1GB) installers.

Posted by: Bart | August 12, 2008 3:39 PM | Report abuse

I upgraded to Money Plus Deluxe about five weeks ago from 2002 also, simply because we bought a new computer, Vista Deluxe, from Dell.

I, too, had trouble bring my old file into the new program and couldn't get it to work. I called Microsoft support on phone number that was included in the pamphlet that came with it, spoke to someone in Mexico he told me, and about 15 minutes later after some tweaking, it was working.

I had saved a backup copy of the previous program, but the new one didn't recognize it. Guy in Mexico says the program comes with free phone support and they did help me.

Sam

Posted by: sam atex | August 12, 2008 4:49 PM | Report abuse

Sam

Posted by: sam atex | August 12, 2008 4:49 PM

I should have been more clear that it was my personal preference NOT to try phone support on a Saturday night. That's last resort stuff for me. Glad you got yours fixed!

Posted by: Anonymous | August 12, 2008 5:14 PM | Report abuse

I don't mind getting software online, as long as I get a full copy so I can back it up and reinstall it if needed in the future. I don't want to be forced into an 'upgrade' just to reload what I've already bought.

I don't trust Microsoft Money with storing my passwords and making connections to my accounts (remember how bad Microsoft Passort was when they released it?). I go to each website, and download the information in MSMoney format. It's picked up automatically and imported into MSMoney.

What I'd really like is a financial management program that does NOT have all the fancy let-us-massage-your-financial-info features, and allows you to turn off any connections it makes over the internet.

When my brother 'upgraded' MSMoney he was frustrated and concerned at the number of mystery connections Money made over the internet that could not be turned off.


Posted by: ChrisViking | August 13, 2008 10:17 AM | Report abuse

Perhaps the follow-up to that blog post will be an announcements of a purely online service that is continually/periodically. I tried Inuit's but but found it too sloooow. And I'm pretty bad about keeping up with these things as well... upgrading isn't the only treadmill, documenting my finances is another.

Posted by: Dave Zatz | August 14, 2008 10:08 AM | Report abuse

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