Office Starter 2010 private beta, with 'Office to GO,' goes to testers

Summary:Microsoft released a bunch of public betas of various Office 2010 products this week. But it also released another one under non-disclosure to a select group of testers: Office Starter 2010. Microsoft made the code for Office Starter 2010 available to select testers via its Connect Web site late this week.

Microsoft released a bunch of public betas of various Office 2010 products this week. But it also released another one under non-disclosure to a select group of testers: Office Starter 2010.

Microsoft made the code for Office Starter 2010 available to select testers via its Connect Web site late this week. Office Starter 2010, as Microsoft officials have disclosed previously, Office Starter 2010 is the replacement for Microsoft Works. It will be free and ad-supported, includes Word and Excel only and allows only basic document viewing and editing.

There's one new feature in Office Starter 2010 that I had not heard about previously. It's called "Office to GO," according to testers with whom I spoke, who asked not to be named. Office to GO is installed using the Click-to-Run setup that is part of Office 2010. (Click to Run is one of the new ways Microsoft is planning to distribute the Office 2010 bits. It streams the bits onto a user's PC using virtualization technology so that users can be up and running with Office more quickly than if they had to wait for the entire product to download.)

The Office to GO application allows users to download Word Starter, Excel Starter and any related documents to a USB drive that users can then run onany  Windows Vista Service Pack 1 or Windows 7 PC, according to the aforementioned tester.

Office Starter 2010 also includes a permanent sidebar that includes links to a Gettting Started guide, help and support, templates and clip art, and an "upgrade to a paid version now" (with PowerPoint and/or Outlook) setting. Here's what that sidebar looks like (click on the image to enlarge):

I've asked Microsoft for more details about Office to GO and will add anything I get back to this post.

Update (November 23): Here's the statement I received from a Microsoft spokesperson regarding my questions on Office to GO:

“Office Starter To-Go is a product where Office Starter users can create a USB device that temporarily enables them to use Word Starter and Excel Starter on another PC on as long as the USB device is plugged in.  The technology used by Office Starter To-Go, is similar to how “Click-to-Run” works in that the USB device is being used as the server for a version of Starter on the device.  When the device is removed from a PC, Office Starter To-Go is also removed. Starter To-Go is only part of Office Starter edition that is pre-installed on new PC’s.  It cannot be installed on a separate PC, but it gives our customers the ability to take their Office with them and use it on any PC to open and work with their Word and Excel documents.”

Meanwhile, in other Office 2010 news from this week, I have a bit of additional information about the Office Web Apps public beta that Microsoft released to testers this week.

As Microsoft officials have said before, Office Web Apps -- the Webified versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote -- will be available in three versions. One will be free and ad-supported and aimed at consumers. The consumer version, which is tied to Microsoft's SkyDrive, is what Microsoft released as a Community Technology Preview (CTP) test build to selected testers this past summer. Microsoft officials told me this week that the final version of the free Office Web Apps product will be released in conjunction with Windows Live Wave 4 (which sounds as if it is a "spring 2010" kind of thing).

There also are going to be two business-focused versions of Office Web Apps that are going to be available as paid subscription offerings: One that will be available to enterprise customers to run on-premises and one that will be hosted by Microsoft. The beta that went out this week is the on-premises business version of the Office Web Apps release. To be clear: It's not the updated beta version of the consumer test build that Microsoft released earlier this fall. (It sounds like the consumer version of Office Web Apps may not get a new public build refresh before it is released in final form this spring.)

The business versions require SharePoint Server on the back end. Microsoft's Office Web Apps team did a blog post earlier this week explaining more about the Office Web Apps-SharePoint tie-in. That post includes this diagram:

I'm interested in hearing more from anyone who's test-driving the new Office Web Apps beta and/or Office Starter 2010. How are the products shaping up? What's working or not for you?

Topics: Collaboration, Microsoft, Software

About

Mary Jo Foley has covered the tech industry for 30 years for a variety of publications, including ZDNet, eWeek and Baseline. She is the author of Microsoft 2.0: How Microsoft plans to stay relevant in the post-Gates era (John Wiley & Sons, 2008). She also is the cohost of the "Windows Weekly" podcast on the TWiT network. Got a tip? Se... Full Bio

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