Retail customers: Do your Office Starter 2010 homework

Retail customers: Do your Office Starter 2010 homework

Summary: June 15 marks the date that Office 2010 goes on sale via retail. While many company watchers and potential users are more focused on the Webified version of Microsoft's Office suite (Office Web Apps), Microsoft and its partners are paying equally close, if not closer, attention to Office Starter 2010.

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June 15 marks the date that Office 2010 goes on sale via retail. While many company watchers and potential users are more focused on the Webified version of Microsoft's Office suite (Office Web Apps), Microsoft and its partners are paying equally close, if not closer, attention to Office Starter 2010.

Office Starter 2010 -- in spite of its name -- is primarily meant to be a distribution tool, rather than a low-end, free version of Office. Yes, Office Starter 2010 is the replacement for Microsoft Works. It will be free and ad-supported and bundled on many new PCs sold at retail. But Starter includes stripped-down versions of Word and Excel only and allows only basic document viewing and editing.

Some have described Office Starter 2010 as trialware (or crapware, depending on your preference of terms). That's not far off the mark. Office Starter is the new vehicle via which Microsoft is preloading an entry-level version of its latest Office suite on new PCs, with the hopes that users will be interested enough to pay to upgrade to a full-fledged version.

Microsoft officials are not entirely convinced their Office Starter 2010 plan is going to work. I had a chance to see a note Microsoft sent to some of its OEM partners, outlining Office 2010 marketing restrictions and suggested best practices.

Some interesting excerpts from that note:

"Most customers who purchase a PC install a full Office suite on it within two weeks. Focusing on the full Office suites also helps avoid dissatisfaction from customers expecting a full Office suite or from business users who miss the functionality of the full Office suites.

"Incorrect messaging of Office Starter 2010 may discourage your customers from purchasing a full Office suite and could also lead to customer dissatisfaction and confusion. Market research shows that many people confused Office Starter 2010 with a full Office suite, and were then dissatisfied because they believed they had received a full Office suite."

Microsoft is advising its PC and retail partners not to focus end-user advertising on Office Starter 2010. Why? From the aforementioned note: "(R)esearch shows that advertising or promoting Office Starter 2010 will distract your customers and deter them from purchasing a full Office suite."

Instead, Microsoft is advising its retail partners to focus on the idea that new PCs preloaded with Office 2010 are "ready for activation" with the purchase of a product key card or disc.

As I blogged previously, Microsoft also is using Office Starter 2010 to get more of its own software and services preloaded on new PCs. Microsoft is planning to charge PC makers $2 per copy for Office Starter 2010 if they also agree to preload the Bing Bar and Windows Live Essentials. If a PC maker wants Office Starter 2010 only, Microsoft plans on charging $5 per copy.

Here's a screen shot below that reinforces this planned pricing, and notes that Microsoft is selling these bundles in packs of 10 to its OEM/system builder partners.

(click on the image above to enlarge)

June 15 also is the date when Microsoft has said it plans to begin rolling out to users the new Windows Live Wave 4 Hotmail. It is the Wave 4 version of Hotmail that will enable users to share Office Web Apps documents from inside their -mail. Microsoft "turned on" Office Web Apps last week, enabling users to access the Webified versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote via their Windows Live Skydrive storage service.

Topics: Microsoft, Collaboration, Software

About

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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22 comments
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  • Confused Office Starter with the full suite

    Really? I mean the naming convention is not at all cryptic. But then again I still support people that call their desktop computers modems or mainframes.
    bobiroc
    • naming confusion

      I think they realize the naming is confusing given Windows Starter is actually Windows (though in a localized/stripped-down form). Office Starter is two stripped-down apps (out of a handful, depending on which Office SKU you normally use)... MJ
      Mary Jo Foley
      • RE: Retail customers: Do your Office Starter 2010 homework

        @Mary Jo Foley

        Yes but Windows Starter does not have all the features that Windows Home Premium does (or higher) like Media Center, Most (if not all) areo effects, etc... It is not new that there are levels to Office so with a word like starter the first thing that goes off in my mind is something to get you started. Seems like common sense to me.
        bobiroc
    • RE: Retail customers: Do your Office Starter 2010 homework

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  • My definition of crapware ...

    ... Office Starter looks like a useful introductory tool
    ... the Bing bar looks like crapware
    ... Live Essentials looks like something the EU should mandate as a 'up to purchaser to select from competing options'
    ... and the $3 discount looks like M$'$ usual manipulative tactics.

    Plus ca change, plus ...
    jacksonjohn
    • RE: Retail customers: Do your Office Starter 2010 homework

      @johnfenjackson@...

      No worse than any of the 3rd party crap OEMs install. I do agree that during the initial PC setup phase they should give you a custom option to keep that crap off or at the very least make it part of the all inclusive restore. I hate restoring a PC because not only do you get all the crapware it is outdated crapware. I find that many of the apps in the LiveEssentials package most people like and find useful but toolbars need to die.
      bobiroc
    • RE: Retail customers: Do your Office Starter 2010 homework

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  • Good things, bad things...

    As long as Office Starter has the same or more functionality than the latest Works Suite (9.5 IIRC) then I think it's a good strategy; especially since you can simply unlock a full Office by simply buying a PKC.
    Of course it would be ideal if Office Sarter can also read (and preferrably save as well) in Works formats for backwards compatibility.
    I don't like the marketing strategy of providing a discount to OEMs for installing all the Windows Live Crapware.

    I'll be waiting for more documentation re: Office Starter 2010 in order to see exactly the features.
    pool7
  • Prefer OpenOffice, Google Docs and Zoho

    I prefer OpenOffice, Google Docs and Zoho. Its free, versatile and cross platform.
    IndianArt
    • RE: Retail customers: Do your Office Starter 2010 homework

      @IndianArt

      All good alternatives for those needing lighter document creation abilities. I know many people that can use those types of apps but some still prefer Microsoft Office even though they do not use all the power.
      bobiroc
    • RE: Retail customers: Do your Office Starter 2010 homework

      @IndianArt You missed out limited in function and lacking expandability...

      I used OO.o for a few years as my main office suite, but it is still lacking a lot of features that I now need.

      Likewise, none of them can work with add-ins. Until they can work with things like JetReports, Google Docs, Zoho and OO.o are going to be at a disadvantage for professional users.

      For the typical home user, OO.o will probably suffice, as will Office Starter.

      For me, I need PowerPoint and above all Outlook, so I am stuck with going for one of the more expensive options.
      wright_is
  • Bundling Office with Live services

    Can Microsoft legally take advantage of its dominant position on the productivity suite market to increase its market share on cloud services market by offering discounts on bundles?
    Isn't this what happened with IE4 and its bundling with Windows 95, causing the scrutiny of the DOJ?
    fatpugsley
    • RE: Retail customers: Do your Office Starter 2010 homework

      @fatpugsley

      Why not? Everyone else does it and not it is not the same thing that happened back with IE and Windows 95.
      bobiroc
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