Beta 2 of Office 2007 proves popular so Microsoft slaps on a price tag of $1.50 a download

The second beta version of Microsoft Office 2007 has proved so popular that the software giant feels it necessary to remove its free status.

From August 2, users, who are essentially testing the software for Microsoft, will have to pay $1.50 if they want to take advantage of the beta program.

A spokesperson issued the following statement as justification for its plans: "We are thrilled with the incredible excitement around the upcoming 2007 Microsoft Office system as evident by more than 3 million people using the beta 2 since its release two months ago. Having exceeded our beta 2 participation goals by 500%, we have had to make the business decision to implement a cost recovery measure for future downloads of beta 2 beginning August 2, 2006."

The move is likely to encourage increased download activity today and tomorrow before the price tag kicks in. The fee may discourage consumers and business users without budgetary control, according to principal Ovum analyst Graham Titterington.

"I am surprised by this announcement. Beta users are unpaid testers so you are essentially charging people to work for you. You also don't get access to any support services," he said.

"It is hard to see why Microsoft is charging as the idea that Microsoft can't afford to service downloads is farcical. I don't think the motives are financial, I think it's more political to try and control downloads as it has made the decision there are too many beta copies out there. The question is whether this is because the feedback is overwhelming or it is worried people will continue using the beta beyond the test period. My guess is the former."

Microsoft is softening the blow by suggesting that users can experience the program without having to pay for the download by taking advantage of the online test drive. However, Titterington points out that while this can demonstrate the look and feel of the software, it's not a substitute for those who want to use it in real-life scenarios.

Titterington doesn't believe this pricing model will be deployed across other betas unless the demand proves overwhelming again, but he discouraged the software giant from charging at all.

"If I've rightly guessed the motives would apply to other betas that prove popular," he said.

"The principle of charging is not unfair but it might well be self defeating so Microsoft would be foolish to adopt this universally for other betas."

Maggie Holland

Maggie has been a journalist since 1999, starting her career as an editorial assistant on then-weekly magazine Computing, before working her way up to senior reporter level. In 2006, just weeks before ITPro was launched, Maggie joined Dennis Publishing as a reporter. Having worked her way up to editor of ITPro, she was appointed group editor of CloudPro and ITPro in April 2012. She became the editorial director and took responsibility for ChannelPro, in 2016.

Her areas of particular interest, aside from cloud, include management and C-level issues, the business value of technology, green and environmental issues and careers to name but a few.