Microsoft Launches Nationwide Contest for Most Innovative Small-Business Idea

NEW YORK — Nov. 16, 2006 — Microsoft Corp. today announced the Ultimate Challenge, a nationwide search for the most creative small-business idea in the country. The contest, which is live at http://www.ideawins.com, has been designed to spur the imagination and spirit of entrepreneurism that drives small businesses. The contest also supports the recent launch of Microsoft® Office Accounting Express 2007, Microsoft’s newest financial management solution that was released as a free download to help home-based and early startup businesses manage their finances. The winner — the business with the most innovative business idea — will receive $100,000 in business startup money, a Manhattan-area storefront for one year rent-free, and infrastructure and software to help run the business.

“We know there are lots of great ideas out there from people just waiting to start their own business, and we want to make their dream come true,” said Rajat Taneja, general manager of Small Business Applications and Services at Microsoft. “The Ultimate Challenge is all about getting entrepreneurs to take steps toward living their dream and pursuing the spirit of Americana. The idea behind this contest is to galvanize entrepreneurs into action and make sure they have the right tools, such as Office Accounting Express, to translate their vision into reality.”

Starting today Microsoft will review applications received through the http://www.ideawins.com Web site or submitted in person at upcoming Ultimate Challenge events. The deadline for submissions is Jan. 31, 2007. A three-judge panel will review the highest scoring applications to determine the four finalists who will be announced in February, and the winner will be chosen in March. Submissions will be judged and scored on the following criteria: marketing approach, financial and logistic feasibility, originality, and public interest. Each category will have a point value of 25 points, and the total will determine the final score. The top scoring submissions will then be reviewed by the judges with a new scoring section a vote from the public worth 25 points.

As part of the nationwide search, Microsoft will deploy the Ultimate Challenge Van, an RV tour that will begin its journey in Times Square on Nov. 28 and make stops in Las Vegas, Denver, Chicago and Atlanta through January. The Ultimate Challenge Van will be a destination where contestants can go to submit their applications and meet Microsoft representatives and successful local business leaders to help finalize their http://www.ideawins.com contest submission.

The four contest finalists will be revealed in February to the public, which can then log on to the http://www.ideawins.com Web site to vote for the final winner who will receive the prize package.

About Microsoft Office Accounting Express 2007

Office Accounting Express 2007 consists of desktop software and seven integrated online services, designed in collaboration with industry leaders. Together, the software and services will enable businesses to harness the power of the Internet to sell products online, send invoices and receive payments electronically, process payroll, run credit reports, collaborate with their accountant, and more all from within their accounting application. The Office Accounting Express software will be available for free* while premium services are available at a charge. Office Accounting Express is available on http://www.ideawins.com.

About Microsoft

Founded in 1975, Microsoft (Nasdaq “MSFT”) is the worldwide leader in software, services and solutions that help people and businesses realize their full potential.

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