Figuring if you try it, you'll like it, Microsoft has released a flurry of high-end products for free or next to nothing. Take Office Live Basics, the entry version of Microsoft's Office Live website design and hosting package, which gives you a domain name, hosting, e-mail and site design templates for free. Likewise, Microsoft Office Accounting Express is a free download aimed at people new to accounting software. The new Vista OS isn't free, but Vista Home Basic runs just $99.95 for XP upgraders.
These free and inexpensive software and services might be all businesses on a tight budget will need. But also know that these starter versions are artfully designed to encourage upgrades to fuller-featured versions. For example, for $39.95 a month, Office Live Premium builds on Basics by adding a heap of features and functionality. If you don't mind dabbling, these programs are worth a try. But you may soon find yourself paying to move up.