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Microsoft set to test selling software online

The shape of things to come
Fri Jan 03 2003, 09:44
MICROSOFT'S Plus Digital Media Edition, an XP add-on pack, will be the first commercial product the software monopolist will offer punters online.

And retailers in Microsoft's channel will be eyeing the development uneasily, as the "photo, music and movie enhancement pack for Windows" goes on sale next week. There are but a few candidates for the sort of products that can be delivered to customers over the web. Music and digital movies are a couple, and software is perhaps the most obvious.

Microsoft, says that when its Plus! Digital Media Edition becomes available via download in the US on January 7th, it will be "the first complete Microsoft product to be offered as a download via online retailers." Even these retailers will be anxious that the move by Microsoft to offer its products on line will eventually leave them out in the cold. One retailer who preferred not to be named told us, "Obviously Microsoft could potentially offer its products directly over the Internet at some stage in the future," he said. "And that could force us out to a certain extent."

The move towards direct distribution for Microsoft is hindered only by the relative paucity of broadband connections in its major developed markets. And so the timing of the company's move towards a direct distribution model is crucial, as the infrastructure needs to be in place for both the customer and the retailer. And, while Microsoft has not yet suggested it might be interested in selling its wares direct over the web, the idea is obviously attractive.

In the meantime, Microsoft will experiment with the idea by allowing retailers to offer the product as a download. Retailers participating in the scheme will have two thoughts in mind: "Either Microsoft will eventually destroy us, or they'll buy us."

Just the sort of feeling most software companies must have all the time… µ


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