Microsoft launches new software with online entrepreneur contest

Who hasn't fantasized about getting a one-on-one with Bill Gates, telling him all about a beyond-brilliant business idea - and then having him whip out his chequebook and offer a fortune for a piece of the action? That's the thinking behind the launch plan of Accounting Express, which blends reality show competition with social media accessibility to encourage product download and sampling.

What may turn out to be the 21st century’s first actual gold rush has just been set in motion by Redmond, Washington-HQ’d Microsoft – which launched the Ultimate Challenge contest yesterday. The idea is to spur the spirit of entrepreneurism by inviting entries expressing innovative small biz ideas. So all you brilliant denizens of the mediaverse, get those thinking caps on.

The winner will receive $100,000 in business start-up money, a Manhattan-area storefront for one year, plus infrastructure and software to help run the business. The deadline for submissions is Jan. 31, 2007, and Microsoft will review all applications through the contest website.

The NYC team at StrawberryFrog is handling the advertising for this, while the site was concocted by Struck Design, of Salt Lake City, Utah.

The Trojan horse element to this initiative, is that the software giant will be pitching its new Microsoft Office Accounting Express 2007 product during the entry process – evidently intending to spark trial and tally up some viral buzz.