Now that Microsoft has officially kicked Office 2010 into the market, the next milestone is just weeks away: the June 15 launch of the retail versions and the beginning of the roll-out of the it's-all-free Office Web Apps to consumers.
That gives you a little more than a month to decide whether to upgrade to Office 2010 -- and figure out how you're going to pay for the suite.
The second part may be tougher than the first: Money not only doesn't grow on trees, but for many of us, that tree has withered since the last time Microsoft upgraded Office.
Ah...2006, 2007...the boom times....
Fortunately, there are ways -- legal ways, we should emphasize -- to save money on Office. In fact, there are several.
Microsoft's dropped "upgrade" pricing for Office 2010, replacing it with what it calls Product Key Cards, single-license codes that will be sold at retail. The licensing codes will activate a full version of Office from free trial downloads and Office Starter 2010, the bare-bones suite that many computer makers are expected to preinstall on new PCs.
Key cards can also be used to upgrade an older copy of Office to the new 2010.
Microsoft's priced the key card for Office Home and Student 2010 at $119, 20% (and $30) less than the boxed copy's $149 price tag.
Word of warning: The key card is for a single license. If you want Office 2010 on more than one machine, the better deal is the $149 boxed edition, which lets you install the suite on up to three machines.
Key card savings increase for the more expensive Office 2010 editions. A card for Office Home and Business 2010, for example, runs $199, $80 less than the $279 price of the boxed version. Office Professional 2010, meanwhile, costs $349 in key card format, $499 in a box, for a $150 savings.
Earlier this year, Microsoft launched a free upgrade program, called Technology Guarantee, to keep Office 2007 sales humming along until Office 2010 shows up. Customers who buy an eligible copy of Office 2007 through Sept. 30, 2010, will be allowed to download and install a corresponding edition of Office 2010 for free. (Users who want a DVD installation disc will have to pay a small shipping-and-handling fee.)
Technology Guarantee saves you money only if you can find a copy of Office 2007 for less than either the key card for Office Home and Student 2010. But that's no problem.
Amazon.com, for example, is currently selling Office Home and Student 2007 for $100, a savings of $49 over Office Home and Student 2010's boxed price, $20 less than the key card.
Don't let the small amount between the Technology Guarantee deal and the key card for Office 2010 fool you. Going the 2007-to-2010 route here lets you install the new suite on up to three PCs; the key card only allows a single install.
So here's the plan: Buy 2007 now, install it, then download the free version of 2010 on June 15, when Microsoft launches the upgrade.
You can use Technology Guarantee to save money on higher-priced editions of Office 2010 as well.