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.”