Microsoft has announced that it will revamp the way in which it offers its Office productivity suite to consumers via the introduction of a free, ad-supported offering that will be pre-loaded by PC manufacturers.
Dubbed Office Starter 2010, the software will be a reduced-functionality, ad-supported version of the Microsoft's upcoming Office 2010. Designed to offer consumers a "consistent Office user experience", Office Starter 2010 will include Word Starter 2010 and Excel Starter 2010, with basic functionality for creating, viewing and editing documents.
The Starter Edition of Office 2010 is designed to replace the current reduced-functionality suite, Microsoft Works, and will feature an upgrade path for those wanting the full features of Office 2010.
Facilitating the upgrade process, Microsoft will launch Office 2010 Product Key Cards into the retail marketplace. Designed with smaller packaging then a full DVD, the Product Key Card will contain a single license key allowing consumers with Office Starter 2010 to upgrade electronically to either Office Home & Student 2010, Office Home & Business 2010, or Office Professional 2010.
Finally, the Redmond-based software giant also announced a new means to download and try Office 2010 dubbed "Click-to-Run". The technology is said to "make it easier than ever for customers to try or buy Office digitally by significantly reducing the time and effort required to download Office 2010 over the Internet", and will utilise virtualisation technology to allow users to try Office 2010 alongside existing installed versions.
Office 2010 is expected to reach retail next year, and a broad beta will be made available late in 2009.