Microsoft Banks on Money 2005

By David Worthington, BetaNews
September 22, 2004, 11:25 PM

Microsoft is taking Money back to the “essentials”. The software giant is banking on having successfully met customers’ requests for a simple financial solution that is powerful enough to address their three primary areas of concern: account balances, monitoring spending and paying bills.

Conventional wisdom is that households today have less time to spend picking through their finances than they did in the past. Microsoft seized on this notion as its inspiration for designing a clearer distillation of its Money family of products.

Citing research that projects that nearly 33 million US citizens are doing their banking online, Microsoft has retooled Money 2005 to download clients’ account information from banks, credit card companies and brokerages throughout the country. Essentially, this places all of its customers’ records in one place.

Microsoft claims that new tools included in Money cut down on the manual entry of account information that has traditionally been required by personal finance software. One such tool called “Spending by Category” automatically generates a pie chart of expense categories using customer specified time frames as the parameter to break down spending into dollar amounts and percentage breakouts.

Another tool called “Spending Average” is designed to assist customers to build their own realistic budgets by displaying a monthly dollar average for each category of spending. A “Favorites” function raises the red flag when any of these categories is identified as an outlier where customers overspend.

Free financial advice is available through MSN Money Web, a Web site where customers can also view balances, check up on investment holdings, keep up to date on market conditions, pay bills and track their spending. Customers are entitled to multiple accounts on the Web site for sharing information with whomever they choose.

On the desktop, Microsoft Money keeps it simple by offering customers abbreviated functionality with features named Essential Register, Essential budget and Essential Reports. The Essential Register produces up-to-date statements and balances; Essential Budget compares monthly spending with the customer’s allotted budget; and Essential Reports provides an overview of spending, debt and net worth. Each function has an advanced mode to enable more end user control, tracking and customization.

“The words ‘financial management’ can strike fear into the hearts of many people who won’t stick with a system if it requires a lot of time, sweat and frustration,” said M.P. Dunleavey, a columnist for CNBC on MSN Money. “They need a solution that is quick, easy and doesn’t involve a lot of ongoing maintenance. Software products such as Money 2005 do so much of the work for you, it couldn’t be simpler to create –- and stick with — a financial system.”

Money 2005 Standard Edition is available for $29.95 USD; Money 2005 Deluxe has an estimated retail price of $59.95 USD; Money 2005 Premium sells for $79.95 USD; and Microsoft Money 2005 Small Business is available for $89.95 USD. All of the above are subject to mail in rebate offers. The products are immediately available from Microsoft retail partners or directly from Microsoft at the Money Web site.

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