Microsoft on Friday revealed that it has launched a private beta for its long-rumored subscription service to an all-in-one software suite, which combines Office Home and Student, OneCare, as well as a host of Windows Live services such as Live Mail and Live Messenger. The new offering, codenamed Albany, will always include the most up-to-date versions of the bundled applications.

One Albany license will be good for three PCs, which makes it very useful to people who own more than one machine –though Microsoft has yet to mention how much it will cost. Microsoft’s move to find a more palatable way of charging for Office is in no small part a response to advances by free, ad-supported online rivals such as Google. The company made it clear, however, that they’re not drifting away from their traditional sales model, and that permanent licenses will always be available for Office products.