In an important--and potentially expensive--break with the past, Microsoft may not be offering discounted "upgrade" versions of Office 2010.
That would be mean all customers will at least theoretically pay full price when they move from Office 2007 to the new version, due later this year.
Published reports quote a Microsoft spokeswoman saying upgrade pricing has been discontinued, although I am awaiting my own confirmation from Microsoft.
There will also be only three versions of Office 2010 available to most customers, down from five for Office 2007.
What Bondi's post didn't reveal was the end of the traditional price break given to customers upgrading from one version of Office to the next.
Microsoft, however, offers a variety of pricing options to customers purchasing multiple copies of its products. SMB customers, for example, can qualify for a 50 percent discount on combined Windows 7 and Office 2010 purchases until June 30.
In announcing Office 2010 pricing, Microsoft said a new "key card" version of Office 2010 would be available in addition to the traditional boxed applications suite. The key card version includes only a card with a product activation key printed on it.
There are important differences between the key card and boxed software, involving both price and number of computers licensed. While the key card is less expensive, it only licenses a single computer. The boxed versions license two or three computers, depending on the specific version purchased.
(Here is our visual tour of Office 2010).
The pricing announcement was made by Rachel Bondi, Office 2010 general manager, in a blog post. Here are the versions and pricing:
- Office Home and Student: $149 (boxed) $119 (product key card)
- Office Home and Business: $279 (boxed) $199 (product key card)
- Office Professional: $499 (boxed) $349 (product key card)
- Office Professional Academic $99 (boxed only)
Office Home and Student includes Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote. Home and Business adds Outlook. Professional provides Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, Outlook, Publisher and Access. The Academic edition will only be available through college bookstores and selected resellers.
Office 2010 is available for download as a public beta and is expected to be formally released later this year.
My take: Like many, I'd often wondered how many customers actually paid "full price" for their copies of Office. In the future, the answer--and least for single purchases--will be "all."
This pricing action highlights the importance of investigating and taking advantage of various Microsoft business licensing agreements. These are available from a wide variety of vendors and, except for the smallest customers, may make running down to the office superstore when you need another copy of Office a very expensive idea.
Alternately, Microsoft's new pricing makes Google Apps Premier Edition's annual subscription, which starts at $50-per-user, seem all the more attractive if you can live with substantial limitations.