Microsoft begins phasing out Starter edition of its Office suite

Microsoft begins phasing out Starter edition of its Office suite

Summary: Microsoft seemingly is paving the way for its coming new version of its Office Web Apps, part of the Office 2013 release.


Microsoft is starting to make changes to its distribution strategy for its Office suite, most likely in preparation for Office 2013.

Microsoft notified its OEM PC partners this week that it is starting to phase out Office Starter 2010, a stripped-down bundle of Word and Excel that it provided to PC makers to preload on new machines. Microsoft was hoping Office Starter customers would decide to “trade up” and activate a more expensive, more complete Office 2010 version once they try Starter.

The word from my contacts is Microsoft will be guiding its OEMs to rely on Office Web Apps as the replacement for Starter, going forward. Office Web Apps are the Webified versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote that Microsoft announced in 2008.

Microsoft is rumored to be beefing up Office Web Apps significantly with the Office 2013 (codenamed Office 15) suite. While preview code for the local versions of the Office 2013 apps has leaked out since the start of this year, there has been very little leaked information about what Microsoft has done to tweak Office Web Apps with the coming release. There is believed to be a new Office Web Apps Server coming as part of the Office 2013 release.

Office Starter 2010 enables basic document viewing and editing only for Word 2010 and Excel 2010. Starter was designed to be ad-supported and provided free to consumers. Office Starter was designed to replace the Microsoft Works trial that is often preloaded on new PCs.

Microsoft has been making Office Starter 2010 available to OEMs and system builders as part of an OEM Preinstallation Kit (OPK). This week, Microsoft introduced a new "Office 2010 Transition OPK" that removes Office Starter 2010.

Microsoft's note on its site about the new OPK states "Effective immediately, the Office 2010 Transition OPK replaces prior versions of the Office 2010 OPK." (There's a screen shot of the page embedded in this post, which can be enlarged by clicking on it.)

"The website for OEMs to order Starter licenses is now disabled, and all of the links from the Office OPK pages have been pulled.  The 'Transition OPK' is now the only download available," said one of my contacts, who requested anonymity.

I've asked Microsoft if the company has any more to say about the apparent discontinuation of Office Starter. No word back yet.

Update: From a Microsoft spokesperson comes a confirmation and explanation:

“We will begin to phase out the shipment of PCs with Office Starter 2010. After Windows 8 becomes available, most new PCs shipped will not have Office Starter. People who use Office Starter 2010 today will continue to be able to use the product for the life of their PC. For Windows7/Office Starter 2010 users who want to upgrade their PC to Windows 8 and continue using Office Starter 2010, they will have to install an update to Microsoft Office 2010 which is available today.”

A public beta of Office 2013 -- the client apps, the server apps and the services -- is expected to land sometime in the next few weeks. Originally, I had heard June was the target for the public beta, but now it's sounding like it will be in July.

Microsoft officials revealed earlier this week during the introduction of its coming Surface devices that the company is planning to make Office 2013 Home & Student version what is "included" on the Windows RT Surface tablet later this year.

Topics: Software, CXO, Collaboration, Microsoft


Mary Jo has covered the tech industry for 30 years for a variety of publications and Web sites, and is a frequent guest on radio, TV and podcasts, speaking about all things Microsoft-related. She is the author of Microsoft 2.0: How Microsoft plans to stay relevant in the post-Gates era (John Wiley & Sons, 2008).

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  • Great

    SJVN article on OEMs can now install LibreOffice because Microsoft is evil and has abandoned them can begin in 3....2.....
    Your Non Advocate
    • OEMs can install just about anything they like on a PC

      If I remember correctly, there are some limitations as to what crap they can put on the desktop and what can be initially shown in the start menu, but that's about it.
      • Not really, no.

        They can install anything they like, but there are customization requirements.

        The only mandatory requirement for System Builders is that they have to include support information in the form of their business name, phone number, hours of operation, and support website. This is the bare minimum for any Windows install. If they choose to install other options like Office 2010, then there are additional requirements for that package that are separate from Windows. For instance, if you installed Office 2010 with PC Essentials (to get Starter for $2 instead of $5), you had to include a recovery partition. There was no requirement to install Office Starter with the Office 2010 OPK though, but the Express Deployment Toolkit made the whole process very easy, and would enforce the requirements.

        If you preload software, you can only pin 3 icons to the taskbar, but the icons for IE, Libraries, and Windows Media Player have to remain the first 3 beside the Start button. AFAIK, no OEM's (including System Builders) were allowed to remove IE, but I could be wrong about that. You could install a second browser and set the other browser as the default though, but IE had to remain for the end-user to remove.

        Ultimately, Microsoft has a baseline idea of what features Windows should include, but OEM's had a lot of freedom to add to it - they just have to follow the rules so that their additions don't take anything away from the vanilla install (which is still pretty barebones anyway, especially since Microsoft put a lot of add-on apps into WL Essentials).
    • Did Microsoft just poison their Office Partners?!?

      William Farrel
      • Don't feed the trolls

        ...not even the ones that work here.
  • Starter 2013

    Didn't I hear that the Office in Windows RT was going to be Office Home & Student STARTER???

    I would swear that is what I remember from the presentation.
    • Nope.

      What is coming with Windows RT is "Office Home & Student 2013 RT Preview". It's listed on the Surface website, About page, at the bottom in the fine print.
  • Office Express Editions

    Microsoft should do with Office what they've done with Visual Studio: Provide an Express Edition, including Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote, with a very basic feature set and targeted at consumers. Somewhat similiar to the Office 2013 RT release for the ARM-architecture.
    • They already do:

      Office Web Apps.
  • I'm not surprised many didn't upgrade from Office 2010 Starter

    I'm not surprised many didn't upgrade from Office 2010 Starter, given that it's free it's perfectly fine for most users.

    Office Web Apps as a replacement though, seriously? That's ridiculous.
    • Not right now

      The Office Web Apps will get an overhaul in time for the 2013 release. Expect features near-to, or on-par with, Office Starter 2010. Offline functionality, however, may not be one of them.
  • MS force me to Quit office

    Finally, MS push me to phase out the whole office product line and join LibreOffice.......
    Jc Bk