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Microsoft Wants to Sell More Consumers a Software Subscription

Dina Bass

(Bloomberg) -- Microsoft Corp. unveiled a consumer subscription service with added Office programs and tools to protect children and older adults, part of an effort to shift more customers to ongoing payment plans that provide a smooth revenue stream.

Microsoft 365 Personal and Family will begin rolling out April 21 at $6.99 a month for an individual and $9.99 a month for the family edition, which includes six users. That’s the same price as the previous Office 365 consumer products, which have more than 37 million subscribers, said Yusuf Mehdi, a Microsoft vice president. Features will continue to be made available over the few months, he said.

The company is adding services such as Microsoft Editor, an artificial-intelligence powered program for Word, Outlook email and the web browser that gives suggestions about how to make writing more concise, inclusive and grammatical. There’s also a presentation coach for the PowerPoint slideshow program that lets users practice in front of their laptops or phones — the app will point out, for example, if presenters are turning away from their audience too often or resorting to the word “um.” Excel will get a new service to track and analyze personal spending through a partnership with Plaid Technologies Inc. that lets customers import data from banking and checking accounts.

Microsoft is trying to shift more corporate and consumer users to ongoing subscriptions delivered via the cloud and eliminate the need to persuade them to upgrade to new software every few years. 

As part of the package, a new parental-control app lets users track what children are doing on a variety of devices and set activity limits on Window 10 devices, Xboxes and Android devices. Apple Inc.’s iOS will be added in the future, Mehdi said. Customers can also set geofencing areas on devices that set off an alert, if for example, a child leaves school at an unexpected time, or an elderly parent wanders off. A child can turn off the controls, which would also alert the parent, Mehdi said, enabling a further conversation.

“It’s really up to the parent and child to have a dialogue on do these features get turned on or not,” he said. “We’re just trying to provide the powerful tools. We want to respect the privacy of people to use their phones.”

The company is also offering its Teams corporate messaging and conferencing service, which is being used more as employees work from home during the Covid-19 outbreak, for chat among family groups. 

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