Microsoft has launched Microsoft Money Plus, an update to its personal financial software targeted at consumers, entrepreneurs and small businesses.

A direct competitor to Intuit's Quicken 2008, Microsoft Money Plus succeeds Microsoft Money 2007.

"We are here to help facilitate and educate consumers on their personal finances and help them when they are ready to act," said Chris Jolley, group marketing manager for Microsoft, during a press briefing with WebCPA.

Microsoft Money Plus offers users a dashboard tool called "Insights" that alerts people when bills are due soon or overdue, and keeps track of spending, deposits and account balances. The Insights show up on the desktop without the user needing to run the program. Users can attach links to important files such as a check image or a scanned receipt. The software integrates with Microsoft's MSN Money site to provide users with quick access to financial information.

The application comes in four versions: Microsoft Money Plus Deluxe, which allows a quick glance at financial information on a user's desktop; Microsoft Money Plus Premium, which offers the same as the deluxe version but adds tools to help users plan for retirement and other long-term financial goals and investments; Microsoft Money Plus Home & Business, which is geared toward the entrepreneur and home business owner, providing tools that guide users through business taxes, inventory tracking and online payroll, along with management of their personal finances; and a low-end offering, Microsoft Money Essentials, which consolidates personal banking, credit and investment accounts in one place.

The software runs on Windows XP or Windows Vista. Pricing is as follows: Microsoft Money Plus Deluxe, $49.99 minus a $20 mail-in rebate; Plus Premium, $79.99 minus a $30 mail-in rebate; Home & Business, $89.99 minus a $30 mail-in rebate; and Essentials, $19.99. For more information or to download a version, visit www.microsoft.com/money.

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