Microsoft Office 2010 will be on sale on June 15 – new versions of Microsoft Word, Excel, Outlook, and the rest. (It’s been available to enterprises with volume licenses for a few weeks now – big businesses live in a separate world from regular consumers, with different versions of products delivered on different dates.)

If you’ve bought a new computer or a standalone copy of Microsoft Office 2007 in the last few months, you probably qualify for a free upgrade to Microsoft Office 2010. The process is similar to getting a rebate – you’ll have to fill out a few forms, figure out your Windows Live ID, and jump through a few hoops – but it’s worth going through it.

Microsoft continues to have problems with names. Over the years we have struggled to distinguish Outlook and Outlook Express, Windows Messenger/MSN Messenger/Windows Live Messenger, and so many more. The names of the Office 2010 suites do not track the Office 2007 suites, and the changes are fairly capricious. Microsoft has not yet updated the main Office website, making it difficult to get information about the products that will be on the market soon.

The 2007 lineup has included Home & Student, Standard, Small Business, Professional, and Ultimate versions, each with a different mix of programs.

The 2010 suites have a completely different “Standard” edition that is only available to volume license customers, which seems like an odd and arbitrary way to shake up the names. For the rest of us, there will be a Home & Student edition, a new “Home & Business” edition that will be the one most of you choose (Word, Excel, Powerpoint, Outlook, OneNote), and a Professional edition if you need to use Microsoft Access or Publisher. (There are other Professional suites for volume license customers or those qualifying for academic versions.) In an abrupt change, there will no longer be separate full versions and lower-priced upgrade versions, which makes the product line easier but might make it more expensive for many people than in previous years.

There will also be new buying choices that will undoubtedly cause confusion. As before, a preinstalled copy shipped on a new computer is a single license locked to that computer – it can’t be used again or moved to a different computer. The boxed copies will permit 2 or 3 installations, although as before there are specific conditions to be met: Home & Student can be installed and used by 3 people on 3 computers; Home & Business can be installed on 2 computers but is licensed to be used by the same person and never simultaneously. (Honest, those are the terms of the license.)

For the first time there will be a new option to purchase a card with a license code for the consumer suites, allowing you to download the software for up to 30% less than the cost of the boxed version. Reportedly the card (apparently similar in appearance to a gift card) will only allow a single installation and license activation and it will then be locked to the computer, like an OEM preinstalled copy. Microsoft will also be directly selling a downloadable version, and who knows what the license rights will be for that? We will all know more about Microsoft license terms than we want to know in the next year or two, I suspect.

The real question is: do you care about Office 2010? Is this a compelling upgrade? I’ll tell you more about that soon.

Share This