Staples.com Gets Personable

SAN FRANCISCO (08/14/2000) - Life isn't easy for small businesses, especially when it comes to buying software. You want the brand name applications, but you don't have the funds, right? Staples.com wants to meet you. Through a partnership with Personable.com, an online application provider, the office supply site is offering software applications by subscription over the Internet.

On Monday, the pair is announcing availability of Personable's suite of online applications and online courses at the Staples Inc. Business Solutions Center.

Personable.com, launched late last year, offers Web-based applications and tutorials aimed at small businesses and consumers. Its selection includes several desktop productivity programs and focuses on Microsoft Office. You can choose among available applications, paying for only what you need while you use it. Pricing for applications starts at $6.95 monthly, and fees differ for businesses and individuals.

Personable also offers a "pay as you go" model, so you can pay for an application only while you actually use it. You get 10MB of storage space along with your monthly fee, and you can add more as needed. (See "Your Personal, Virtual Desktop.")Group Rates AvailableBusinesses may create their own virtual private networks, as well. For a base fee of $40 per user monthly, business customers get 20MB of virtual hard drive space per user and a shared 30MB virtual drive. After the flat fee, customers must subscribe to applications and pay an additional fee. For example, a subscription to Office 2000 Standard (Word, Excel, Access, and PowerPoint), costs another $9.99 per user monthly. An individual can subscribe to Office 2000 Standard for only $19.95 monthly.

"The entry barrier, spending lots of money for a small business to get up and running with its software, is tremendously lowered," says Benjamin Chou, Personable.com's chief executive officer.

"You can pick and choose what software you actually need. If you only need Excel, why pay for PowerPoint?" says J.B. Lyon, the vice president of the Staples Business Solutions Center.

Personable.com also offers hundreds of online courses, from "Advanced Microsoft Word" to "Grant Writing." The various business-related and personal enrichment courses are typically six-week sessions available for a flat fee from $66 to more than $300. You get a weekly module to work through, passing quizzes before you move on to the next module.

Staples.com, launched two years ago, already offers thousands of downloadable software titles, but its Personable deal marks its first foray into online office applications.

"The industry is evolving to the point where software will primarily be available and be bought online," Lyon says. "It offers many benefits for customers, including ongoing upgrades and maintenance, as well as the ability to access the software wherever you are."

To access Personable.com's applications, you must download a small plug-in. You get your own Personable desktop, which is actually a virtual Windows 2000 desktop. From there, you can select from more than 300 applications and online courses. Personable works with Windows-based PCs and Macs.

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