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Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Microsoft Office 2010 Starter Edition: Is It Good Enough?

Microsoft is planning on releasing Office 2010 Starter Edition to replace their Microsoft Works product next year alongside the rest of their traditional Office 2010 lineup. Works has long been distributed on new consumer level PC’s as an entry level gateway to Microsoft Office, however it has long been maligned by users as a poor alternative to the Office suite. Works has traditionally maintained different and sometimes incompatible file formats with the rest of the Office lineup. New computer buyers dislike Works so much that some PC manufacturers have been distributing on new computers in addition to Works. However, it does not look like Starter Edition is going to cut it for anyone but home users that have little use for anything that does not come from a web browser, it is definitely not designed for business users.

With Starter Edition, Microsoft is leaving out some core Office functionality, as it only includes Word & Excel. It does not include Powerpoint, Outlook, Access, and many other smaller Office component applications.

While Starter Edition is not going to include many things that hardcore Office users have grown to expect, it is going to include one thing that the fullblown Office does not have: Ads. It is not uncommon for web-based apps to contain ads alongside the workspace, Gmail has been doing this for years, but it is a relatively new concept to include it in actual installed application on your hard drive.

The question is really where does this fit into Microsoft’s Office strategy?

Office Starter 2010 is being positioned by Microsoft to encourage new computer buyers to purchase the an upgrade to the full version of Office. In this case it will be one of Microsoft’s “Instant Upgrades”, as users will be able to purchase a CD Key online that will disable the Ads and unlock the rest of the Office goodness that it is already installed, but hidden on the computer. Microsoft is also using this as an opportunity to eliminate the Microsoft Works product of which sales have always been minescule compared to its bigger Office brother. It also allows Microsoft to make a stand against the growing tide of free Office-like suites that are emerging and being distributed on new computers.

Most new home computer buyers will not think twice about this, but Office workers will likely continue to use paid versions of the full-featured Office suite or use the upcoming web version of office.

Speaking of the upcoming Web version of Office, would Office Starter not have been better distributed as a web app with Google Gears-like functionality?

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