Microsoft has released retail prices for Office 2010 for British buyers, and has introduced a new product key-based version that is cheaper than traditional boxed software.
The prices, announced on Wednesday, cover three of the four retail versions of the suite, which is due for release in June. The three versions are Office Home and Student, Office Home and Business and Office Professional. Microsoft also plans to sell an academic version of Office 2010, but did not say in its announcement how much it will cost.
"We will be offering an academic SKU in the UK," said Chris Adams, Office product manager at Microsoft UK. "We will be able to give details of pricing in the near future."
When customers buy a product-key card, they get a code that will unlock versions preinstalled by manufacturers on new PCs.
The key card allows installation of the Office suite on one machine only, while the boxed version is licensed for use on two. The exception is Office Home and Student, which is licensed for three.
Office Professional, which has the largest range of updated tools, is priced at £430 for the boxed version and £300 for the product key card alternative. Office Home and Business, which Microsoft recommends for small businesses, will cost approximately £240 in a box and £190 in a product key version. Office Home and Student is £110 and £90 respectively.
Upgrade pricing is being dropped completely for Office 2010, according to Adams. Those who want to move up from Office 2007 must get the boxed version, or buy a new PC with it preinstalled, ready for unlocking with a product key card.
Adams acknowledged that in certain situations, this would make the Office upgrade more expensive than it had been in the past.
"In certain situations, it's potentially more expensive to upgrade, [for example] from 2007 to 2010 if someone already owns a PC, because we've removed the upgrade pricing," Adams said.
However, Adams pointed out that Microsoft's pricing structure for Office Home and Business means it is cheaper to buy the 2010 version than it was to upgrade to Office 2007. The upgrade to the full version of Office Home and Business 2007 cost £350, whereas the full boxed version of Office 2010 is £240.
"We're really excited about the Home and Business SKU," Adams said. "Compared to what customers would previously pay, this represents a huge reduction in price."
Retail prices for Office 2010 in the UK are consistently more expensive than in the US, if the prices are given a currency-exchange calculation. For example, the product key card version of Office Professional in the US is $349 (£223), compared with £300 in the UK.
Adams said the difference is due to factors such as exchange-rate fluctuations, as well as different expectations of pricing in the countries.
"In every region there are multiple factors that affect the final price," he said. "Currency fluctuations means sums based on currency base rates change over time, and can become better value. [Also] there are different channel-messaging expectations in the US versus the UK."
Starter, the expected replacement to the free, pared-down Office suite Microsoft Works, will also be broadly available in June in the UK, according to Adams. To the end-user, Starter will be free in the sense that it will be included in the cost of a new PC, he said.
Both Starter and Professional Plus will be available for volume licensing before the consumer versions arrive in June, he added.
Adams said Microsoft had received positive feedback to its beta, saying that more then three-quarters found Office 2010 to be improved. According to the latest available figures, the beta has been downloaded two million times, he said.