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  • Personal Finance Software to Boom in Japan: MS Money Manager
  • July 16, 1998 (TOKYO) -- Microsoft Co., Ltd. of Japan will release the Japanese version of Microsoft Money, a suite of personal finance tools, on July 25. Although Microsoft Money has been on sale in the United States since 1991, this is its first release in Japan.
    Richard Bray (photo), Money Product Unit manager of Microsoft Corp. of the United States, is making his first visit to Japan ahead of the launch. He spoke to BizTech's Editorial Department. Explaining what led to the decision to produce a Japanese version of Money, Bray said, "Deregulation of the financial sector and increasing worker mobility will trigger a boom in personal finance software in Japan. It will be soon be commonplace for Japanese people to manage their own finances on a personal computer."

    BizTech: Why has Microsoft decided to launch a Japanese version, seven years after Money went on sale in the United States?

    Bray: The idea of releasing a Japanese version had been around for quite some time, though we didn't actually start researching the Japanese market until about 18 months ago. The background factors were deregulation of the financial sector and increasing mobility in the labor market in Japan, which make the situation surrounding personal finance quite similar to what happened in the United States.

    With deregulation, a range of financial products are coming on stream. Also, our research showed that PC users in Japan have dealings with five financial institutions per household. It's not easy, then, to manage bank deposits, stocks and bonds, and other financial assets without computer software.

    The employment situation in Japan is heading for major change too. The lifetime employment system in Japan's companies is starting to collapse, and people are starting to feel uneasy about pensions after retirement.

    In this sort of climate, investment and assets have to be managed from a long-term perspective. This is where Money comes in, as software that can help people manage their finances.

    The popularity of the Internet is another major reason for releasing a Japanese version of Money. The Internet is awash with financial information, and it's growing every day. One of the important roles that Money can perform is to pick out what the user really needs and give pointers for the next investment.

    BizTech: Apart from financial management, Money is used in the United States for preparing personal income tax returns. In Japan, though, income is generally taxed at source, so only sole traders and the like have to file an individual tax return. Will Money be able to attract users in Japan, solely as a financial management tool?

    Bray: It is not correct that tax returns underpin the need for Money. In fact, we have data showing that less than 10 percent of people using software packages like Money are using them to prepare tax returns.

    Money has already been released in eight countries, including the United States. People have to prepare a final tax return in only four of those countries, including the United Kingdom, which moved to a tax return system only this year. The other four countries, including France, have a withholding tax systems like Japan, but Money is selling just as well there as in the tax return countries. It's not true that Money relies on the practice of tax preparation.

    BizTech: At one stage Microsoft decided to sell Money to Novell Inc. In effect, Microsoft attempted to get rid of Money. What features have been enhanced, then, since Microsoft carried on selling Money as its own product?

    Bray: It's on record that Microsoft was planning to take over Intuit Inc. in 1994 and to switch to Quicken, Intuit's financial management software. In the end we were forced to pull out because of a lawsuit brought by the Department of Justice.

    It was afterwards that Microsoft really started to make Money a more powerful product. We put the focus particularly on its personal financial management features. For instance, we've added a feature that will warn you in real time if actual expenditures on some item of your household account exceeds the budgeted amount, and a feature that compares the interest on your current mortgage with other available mortgage rates and may suggest refinancing if warranted. Quicken still doesn't have these tools.

    BizTech: For online banking, Money supports both connection to the Internet and connection to NTT Data Corp.'s ANSER-SPC service. The user has to choose one or the other. Did you consider having just Internet access?

    Bray: Microsoft's basic stance is one of neutrality in regard to financial institutions. Our policy is to widen choices, not narrow them. In fact, the U.S. version of Money has five communication protocols to allow as many users as possible to connect to whatever bank or financial institution they might use.

    In the long term, though, the online banking services offered by financial institutions will probably veer toward Internet-based services.

    BizTech: Are there any plans to include Money in the Office suite?

    Bray: No. Office is for business, so the user base differs from Money, which is for the personal market. We do offer add-in software for linking Money to Excel, but we have no plans to bundle Money as an Office application.

    Related story: Microsoft Japan to Release MS Money for Online Access With Banks

    (Hi-Tech News Center)

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    Updated: Wed Jul 15 19:06:54 1998