Microsoft customers who signed up to its Office Live Small Business service (OLSB) before February of last year will soon have to pay to renew Web domains they've acquired through the service.
Microsoft’s OLSB site advertises itself as offering free Website, domain-name and web-hosting services for small businesses.
However, Microsoft will begin charging new customers an annual fee of US$14.95 for a Web domain beginning in February 2008. Those who set up domains on Office Live earlier will not be charged.
From Oct. 1, all Office Live Small Business customers will have to pay for domain renewals.
On its OLSB website, Microsoft explained the change, saying it was to bring the company in line with competitors offering similar services.
Those competitors, according to a spokesman from Microsoft's public relations firm, include but aren't limited to domain hosters and similar small-business hosted services like Yahoo Small Business.
"The domain renewal fee you are being asked to pay is the same price that all other customers are currently paying," the company said on the Office Live Small Business Web site. "We feel that this price is very competitive in the marketplace, especially given that Office Live Small Business will continue to provide several other free services."
Domain registration service GoDaddy.com charges $10.69 to renew a .com domain, $12.99 to renew a .net domain and $14.99 to renew a .biz domain. Yahoo charges $34.95 a year to renew a domain as part of its Yahoo Small Business service .
Office Live Small Business is Web-based service to give small businesses a Web site as well as providing basic management, worker collaboration, accounting, e-commerce and customer relationship management applications. It currently has more than 2 million users.
The Microsoft spokesman said that while he could not say exactly how many of those users will be affected by the change, the number is only a "small percentage" of total users.