Microsoft has unveiled the 2007 Microsoft Office Prepaid Edition, bringing the power of its Office productivity suite to those consumers and small business who could not previously afford it.

“We need to think differently in order to address the needs of the next five billion users of computers and how we can make technology accessible to them. These people live not just in emerging markets but all over the world. Technology has a real chance in this segment to enable and create new growth,” says Cyril Belikoff, Information Worker Business Group Executive at Microsoft South Africa.
“Microsoft is deeply committed to providing affordable productivity solutions and services based on genuine Microsoft Office software which is why we’re thrilled South Africa is at the forefront of these efforts,” continues Belikoff.
The experience of the mobile phone industry illustrates the appeal of pay-as-you-go plans in developing markets. Over a billion cellphones are used around the world on a pay-as-you-go basis. Among cellphone users in emerging markets, 72 percent pay for their service this way, and that figure rises as high as 90%, according to research groups Strategy Analytics and Gartner.
With this in mind, Microsoft began testing the pay-as-you-go model for Office in South Africa a year ago with Microsoft Office 2003. The response from consumers and partners was extremely positive. Office Prepaid appealed to many new customers while enhancing the performance of its traditional business.
As a result, Microsoft is introducing The 2007 Microsoft Office Prepaid Edition in South Africa and Romania, making available three-month subscriptions to Microsoft Office Professional 2007 for about R199. Additional markets may be added in the future.
“The 2007 Microsoft Office Prepaid Edition offers new customers an affordable way to obtain the full power of genuine 2007 Microsoft Office software, the flexibility to pay as they go, and the option to renew when they choose.”
“It is important to understand that providing technology access to these people require new, and often radically different, solutions, business models, and partner approaches,” continues Belikoff.
Beginning in July, the 2007 Microsoft Office Prepaid Edition is only available when purchasing a new computer. The customer has the option of having the suite pre-installed at a low upfront price. This will give them the full functionality of Microsoft Office Professional 2007 for six months, three months on an evaluation basis and another three months on a subscription license.
Once the initial six-month period has ended, the customer can go back to where the computer was purchased and buy a three-month prepaid voucher to continue using the suite.
Should users allow their subscription to expire, they can continue to view and print existing documents and data but cannot create new or modify existing documents. However, users can at any time renew their subscription or convert up to a full Office product.
“Clearly, this represents a new business model for Microsoft. It is being in South Africa to determine how this new model works for both Microsoft partners and customers,” says Belikoff.
“Instead of paying a lump sum, I am able to budget and manage the cost over the long-term. The software is affordable even when things are tight,” says KwaZulu-Natal resident Indran Ramiah.
“It is good for those who cannot afford the price of buying the suite outright. This way, you have access to the most recent version only if you keep paying the monthly fee,” says Muyumba Muminbe, a Johannesburg resident who uses the prepaid software.
But the benefits do not just extend to Microsoft customers. Market tests over the last year revealed that Microsoft Office Prepaid has an impact on Microsoft partners’ businesses.
Many felt the Prepaid offer helped make their PCs more competitive. Rather than compete on speeds and feeds, several partners saw an opportunity to bundle Office Prepaid with certain PC lines to deliver better value to customers.
Across the board, partners were happy to have a cost-competitive, genuine Office product to sell. They know that genuine products generate fewer customer returns and support calls.
“This model has a lot of potential that we have not tapped into yet,” says Riaan Swart, owner of Western Cape-based Chaos Computers.
“It is critical that we reach out to the underserved with innovative solutions that are relevant to the needs of the people. These solutions also need to be easily attainable. Technology needs to be within financial reach of people in these markets,” concludes Belikoff.
Microsoft Office Professional 2007 Prepaid Edition delivers the full value of Microsoft Office Professional 2007 and includes Microsoft Word 2007 which helps you create impressive-looking documents, Microsoft Excel 2007 that effectively turns your data into useful information, Microsoft Outlook 2007 that lets you manage your e-mail communications and organise schedules, Microsoft PowerPoint 2007 that helps people create slide shows with impact, Microsoft Access 2007 to organise data for reporting and sharing, and Microsoft Publisher 2007 for the design of graphical materials for print, Web, and e-mail.