Microsoft plans to stop selling Microsoft Money, its venerable, but not market-leading personal finance program, CNET News has learned.
The software maker has been notifying financial institutions and plans to announce the move to customers over the next 24 hours via a posting on its Web site and a notification in the software. Although Microsoft will stop selling the product at the end of June, it plans to support it through January 2011.
After that point, people can continue to use the product, but they will no longer be able to get automated data feeds from their banks, credit card companies and other financial service providers.
Last year, Microsoft stopped selling Money at retail stores, offering it only by Internet download. The company also said it would stop doing annual updates, but said at the time it planned to continue offering the product.
Microsoft's Adam Sohn said the company now plans to halt sales of the product at the end of the month. A variety of factors led the company to change course.
"It's a mix of what's going on in the market, what makes sense for long-term for us and a little bit on consumer behavior," said Sohn, a director in Microsoft's Online Business Services unit.
The discontinuation of Money is one of the more high-profile product cuts made in the wake of the company's cost-cutting efforts, which began in January. Microsoft said in March it was largely discontinuing its Encarta encyclopedia and has also scrapped its Windows OneCare antivirus product.
As of Wednesday, Microsoft had made no mention of its plans on the Web site. Rather it was offering to sell Money for $59 and featured a link for financial institutions to get more involved in the product.
Sohn said that the company plans to continue selling Money through the end of the month and hasn't made a plan to offer refunds to recent buyers of the product. Those who have recently bought the product, he said, still have a good while to get the value from it. (Microsoft will support Money slightly longer for those who have recently bought the product, per its licensing terms).
Plus, he said, some people will continue to use it even after the automatic services stop. At that point, consumers will have to manually download information from their banks and other service providers. "After Jan 31, 2011, the product will work," he said. "It just wont have the rich-services back end."
Although Microsoft will support current partners pushing data to Money users, it won't be adding any new institutions. It will, however, let current partners re-brand themselves.
The software maker also plans to continue its MSN Money Web site, although Sohn said the company opted not to try to recreate the full Money program on the Web.
Competing with Intuit and Mint
Microsoft has long been chasing Intuit's Quicken. Microsoft even tried to buy Intuit in the mid-1990s, but the Justice Department blocked the move.
In subsequent years, Microsoft has continued the product but also has continued to trail Quicken's sales. More recently, Money has also faced a new wave of Internet-based competitors, such as Mint.com and Intuit's free Web-based Quicken Online program.
The company has been trying for years to grapple with massive changes in the consumer packaged software market as much of that business moves online.
Although its core Office and Windows products remain strong sellers at retail, the company has opted to scale back in other areas, particularly in the purely consumer arena.
Update, 2:40 p.m.: Microsoft has now posted a notice on its Web site.
"With banks, brokerage firms and Web sites now providing a range of options for managing personal finances, the consumer need for Microsoft Money Plus has changed," Microsoft said. "We would like to thank the many dedicated users who have been enthusiastic supporters of Microsoft Money over the years, as well as our partner financial institutions who helped pioneer a digital vision of financial management."
Meanwhile, I also spoke with a spokesman for Intuit, who said that the company is looking at ways to make it easier for Microsoft Money users to bring their data over to that product.
"We look it as an opportunity to show Microsoft Money customers what they have been missing... over the years," Intuit spokesman Scott Gulbransen said.
Although Intuit has recently been bulking up its free online product, Gulbransen said that the company is committed to also offering PC-based software. "We are committed to those who would like to stay with a desktop software solution," he said.