Microsoft adds an 'Office Starter' edition to its distribution plans

Microsoft officials shared on October 8 more details about three new ways the company is planning to try distributing Office 2010 when the product ships next summer: Office Starter, Product Key Card and Click to Run.

Microsoft officials shared on October 8 more details about three new ways the company is planning to try distributing Office 2010 when the product ships next summer.

Via a post on the Office 2010 Engineering blog, Microsoft officials explained three new distribution mechanisms the company will use to get more users to try the next version of Office. The three:

Office Starter 2010: A preload that includes stripped-down versions of only Word 2010 and Excel 2010. (Stripped-down here means basic document viewing and editing only.) Starter will be ad-supported, so, free. But Microsoft is positioning it as "an easy way for customers  to try the product and eventually upgrade to enhanced versions of Office," not as a replacement for Office. This is meant to replace the Microsoft Works trial that is often preloaded on new PCs. In spite of its name, Office Starter 2010 really has little resemblance to Windows 7 Starter Edition.

Product Key Card: This is a single-license card that unlocks Office 2010 which will be sold at major retailers and OEMs. The idea behind this is to allow users to more easily and quickly upgrade to one of the three full consumer versions of Microsoft Office 2010. There's no media on the card; it's just a key. This works when an Office image is pre-installed already on a new machine and the key activates it.

Click-to-Run: This streaming/virtualization technology is targeting the existing Office installed base. Microsoft has been testing the Click to Run functionality among a select group of Office testers since earlier this summer. The Office applications are streamed to you and so you can get up and going in minutes instead of a half hour or longer. You can start using the individual apps as each is downloaded to your machine. And the Click to Run version can be used alongside existing versions of Office that you might already have on your PC.

Microsoft officials aren't yet sharing any pricing details regarding the Product Key Card or Click-to-Run.

I'm betting a lot of pundits are going to be trumpeting "Microsoft drops price of Office with Starter to zero out from Google Docs pressure!" when they read about this announcement. But that's not what this is about.

Microsoft knows that older versions of Office are the biggest competitors to a new release of Office and that the company needs to find new ways to get customers to try Office so they'll consider buying it. If you dig up Chief Software Architect Ray Ozzie's "Internet Services Disruption" memo from 2005, Ozzie focuses quite a bit on how Microsoft needed to do more software trials and devlop new distribution mechanisms to keep the company competitive.

Do you think any of these new distribution vehicles will get more current Office users to give Office 2010 a try? Why or why not?


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