The question I was asked as I was making my sandwich at an onsite conference...

"So, you work with the product groups... what's happening in Albany today?"

No, that should be "What is Albany?"

See the news here on the Beta launch of New All-in-One Service for Consumers, as told by Group Product Manager Bryson Gordon on Microsoft PressPass today...

"... Albany" is the codename for a new all-in-one subscription service of essential software and services consumers told us were most important to them. We’ve pulled together the productivity tools people need to organize their lives, security to help keep their personal information safe and online services that make it easy for them to keep in touch with friends and family, and folded them all into a single service that also ensures the user's PC is running the latest security and productivity software.

"With just a few clicks, "Albany" subscribers will be able install the whole package, which includes Microsoft Office Home and Student 2007, giving them the latest versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote for their personal and school projects; Windows Live OneCare to help keep viruses at bay and their computer fast and healthy; and Windows Live Mail, Messenger and Photo Gallery so they can connect and share with others. Albany also installs the Microsoft Office Live Workspace connector on the Microsoft Office toolbar, so users can save documents to their own dedicated online workspace and invite friends and classmates to collaborate and share.

"Additionally, with "Albany" consumers get the latest versions of Microsoft Office Home and Student and Windows Live OneCare as they’re released. Combined with ongoing security updates, consumers can have the peace of mind that they have protection from the most recent security threats and that their PC is running at its peak.

"The beta program we're announcing today spans a broad cross-section of users and is an integral part of bringing a new service to market."

As Ina Fried said in her blog today...

"Microsoft is planning to introduce a limited beta version of Albany in the coming days, with the aim of launching the product commercially sometime later this year, Gordon said. The company still hasn't decided on how much it will charge or how the product will be sold, he said.

"In talking about the product, Microsoft did not refer to Google Docs by name, but I have said a subscription product might be Microsoft's way of trying to find a more palatable way of charging for Office amid stepped-up competition from free and online rivals.

"By tying the Office subscription to OneCare, Microsoft is linking the purchase to one of the few areas where consumers have shown a willingness to pay for software--security. In this way, Microsoft can make the pitch to those buying security software that, for some extra dollars, they can always have the latest version of Office as well."

Also of interest on CNet News...

Tags: Microsoft, OneCare, Office, Saas.