Microsoft has made an interesting move into the free software market with its announcement this morning of Office Accounting Express 2007, a stripped-down version of its small business software kit.
Office Accounting Express 2007 is available as a free download at www.ideawins.com. A report at SmartPros describes the offering as "software as a service," but the giveaway is a traditional client-side program, not a Web-based service. However, it does include multiple tie-ins to Web-based services that can be added for a fee.
The revenue model appears to be classic upsell. The free software includes interfaces with add-on payroll and credit-monitoring services; we can't find any explicit report to verify this, but we'd assume that Microsoft has revenue-sharing relationships with key partners, such as Verisign for security features.
The free software will also have an activation key for purchase of Microsoft's re-tooled professional accounting package for small businesses. The free Office Accounting Express 2007 will be packaged with upcoming releases of Office 2007.
Redmond says the product is aimed at the 80 percent of small businesses that rely on Excel for their accounting processes; the target market is evident in the available tie-ins to eBay and PayPal.