When, if ever, will we see Money(next)?
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Apparently my plea for people to support Money didn't result in a positive enough response.

In August of 2008, Microsoft provided the following statement for Money MVPs to pass along:

Annual Release Change
• Microsoft Money Plus continues to be a valuable tool for our customers; however the feedback we are hearing is that the incremental updates to the software don’t merit a new product every year. Given this, we have decided against releasing a 2009 version of Money Plus.
• We are moving off of an annual release cycle for Microsoft Money Plus (no Money 2009 version in the fall), with future release dates TBD. Money Plus continues to be a valuable tool for our customers, however the feedback we are hearing loud and clear is that, after 17 years in the market, the incremental updates to the software don’t merit a new product release every year. Given this, we have decided against releasing a 2009 version of Money Plus.

100% Online distribution (out of the packaging business and physical retail store shelves)
• More and more retail consumers are going online to shop the endless rows of digital shelves. In response to our retail partners’ needs, consumer behavior and business efficiencies, Microsoft is focusing distribution efforts for Microsoft Money Plus software online via download and discontinuing traditional box sales of the software at retail.
• Microsoft Money Plus will continue to be available at retail outlets while supplies last. We have stopped shipping new product to retail outlets.
• We have been listening to our customers and analyzing market trends and business dynamics and feel that distribution the software product online will provide our customers with the right mix of products and services that will meet their needs.
• The combination of Money Plus and MSN Money will continue to provide a comprehensive source for our customer’s money and personal finance needs. Through the various tools and tight integration with the site, Money Plus customers can get a complete view of their finances, understand what bills have been paid and which are due, access stock information and tap into the extensive list of financial experts on MSN Money for tips and guidance.

Overall
• Is this a sign that you are getting out of the packaged PC consumer software business overall?
o Microsoft does not see shrink wrapped software going away anytime soon and we are always talking to customers about different ways to price and package our software offerings. The company is evolving its strategy and product solutions to meet customer demand and optimize business efficiencies.

• What is your goal with moving to this download-only model? How have retail partners responded?
o Our goal is to deliver products the way our retail partners and consumers are demanding. Retailers are asking for more ways to work with us on the digital distribution of Microsoft Money, so many are excited about the additional flexibility the Web offers. This move means that our retailers can provide more inventory of our products, but require less physical space to manage inventory.

To my knowledge, this statement has only been released via the MVPs and has not been issued or posted elsewhere by Microsoft. No supplemental information or clarifications have been made available.

(Let's ignore for a moment the obvious: "the feedback [Microsoft heard] that the incremental updates to the software don’t merit a new product every year" became a self-fulfilling prophecy when the value added in these annual releases approached zero.)

What does this mean? I can only guess and none of those guesses are good.

Money Plus has an online services policy that indicates licenses of Money Plus Deluxe and higher will have their online services expiring two years from activation or by January 31, 2011. Since Money Plus released to the public in mid-summer of 2007, this date is "soon to come due" for the first users who licensed Money Plus. As this is being written, that's about four months away.

It seems that Microsoft has basically four choices for what to do when that date comes: 1) Expire online services per the policy, 2) Explicitly or implicitly extend the service period, 3) Provide a new version, or 4) Provide a paid service extension offering.

Microsoft may not care about the bad will that Option 1 would cause.

They could probably do Option 2 but it's not clear why they'd want to at this point. The data services and "third party" services do cost them something to maintain and provide. Microsoft remains a "for profit" enterprise. Note this is essentially the state UK users have been in for two years since their last release, Money 2005, "expired" in 2007. So who knows?

Option 3 seems improbable. Money hasn't seen significant re-engineering in a decade. It's built on a database technology that is no longer used widely across Microsoft and is no longer seen as "strategic" for them. That the best fix to Money's own problems with database integrity in the scheduled bills was "Nuke-The-Bills" suggests just how far the code has deteriorated after a decade of maintenance programming. Even the code that has been done in recent releases--and the bugs that remain unfixed--suggest that there is nobody on the Microsoft Money team who really understands the problems Money is supposed to solve for users nor anyone who is capable of designing a suitable tool using current technologies. Does Microsoft have the resources and talent to put together a team capable of such a job? Sure they do. (Wish lists are available in case they are looking for some requirements.) But it would cost in the tens of millions of dollars to do so and it's pretty clear that they don't see a business case for that kind of investment.

The activation hooks and hints in the online service policy about possible future service offerings seem to suggest that Option 4 is possible. It's not clear why they would want to do that if their previous business model was such a disappointment to them.

We will have to wait and see what happens…

Dick Watson, maintainer of this unofficial microsoft.public.money FAQ

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Last update: 30 March 2009

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