By Chris Scott Barr
I used to work in retail for several years selling computers and such. One of the things that always seemed to surprise customers was just how much Microsoft Office really cost. They would usually get frustrated with me, since I was in charge of Microsoft’s prices. Usually a lot of them qualified for a Student and Teacher edition, which saved them a good bit of cash. Of course once OpenOffice came out, I would generally recommend that they download it, and not pay a dime. About half of them would, and since I didn’t make commission, we would both be happy.
I’ve been using OpenOffice for a long while now, and have few complaints. There is really very little that makes me want to turn back to Microsoft’s offerings. I mean you can’t beat free, right? As it turns out, they’ve been thinking along the same lines and will be offering a free version of their suite dubbed ‘Office Starter 2010’.
As you would imagine, this is not a free as in beer version. This particular edition will be given to OEMs to install (at their discretion, so not all will necessarily have it) on new computers. The programs will be ad-supported, though we don’t know exactly what that will entail.
Users will have access to full versions of all the Office programs, minus Outlook and PowerPoint. I’d imagine PowerPoint was left off to entice students and office workers to pony up the cash for it. If you do end up wanting to purchase the full Office suite and get rid of the ads, you can go to your local retailer and purchase an activation code which will unlock it.
I’ll definitely have to commend Microsoft on this decision. In a world where Google Docs and OpenOffice are making real headway, they needed to do something. People love free stuff, and as long as the ads aren’t too obtrusive, people will have little reason to turn to other alternatives. Either way, customers win.