How much money does Microsoft need? As much as possible would appear to be the answer, considering that it has announced a $1.50 fee to download the Office 2007 Beta as from August 2nd. Claiming a requirement to cover server costs as a result of the 3 million people that have already participated in the trial in just a couple of months.
This is, according to Microsoft, 500 percent more than was expected and hence the need for “a cost recovery measure” for future downloads although the online test drive version will remain free. Well whoopee doo on the generosity front there.
If I understand the situation correctly, Microsoft would appear to wants to have its cake and eat it. There is no denying that, Windows OS apart, Office is the big Microsoft money spinner. Equally there is no denying that by letting users download, install and use the Beta version of the suite free of charge for a few months it can get its hooks into a lucrative upgrade revenue stream. Three million downloads would suggest quite an interest, and certainly provide generous return on the server bandwidth investment if even just 25% took the paid upgrade path.
Which leaves me thinking that either Microsoft is feeling the financial pinch (unlikely) or are acting like mercenary, money grabbing buffoons (more likely.) It is never morally right that the consumer should be expected to pay for Beta software, nor even the online mechanism to deliver it. This is all part and parcel of the development and marketing budget, surely? Unless someone has got their sums drastically wrong, in which case take it out on them and not us. The whole thing is, frankly, a farce. Why not just come clean Microsoft, and admit that far too many Beta copies are in use and you goofed? Why not admit that the download charge is to limit further Beta distribution without losing face and pulling it altogether? Why not admit that the online test drive amounts to exactly the same thing?
In Australia this is exactly what seems to be happening as there Microsoft is withdrawing the Beta download service and claiming the program is “full.”