Say goodbye to Microsoft Works and hello to ad-supported software and license-only retail cards. That's the gist of a recent post on the Office 2010 Engineering blog, where Office Corporate VP Takeshi Numoto announced Office 2010 Starter alongside other, new ways in which Microsoft will distribute Office 2010.
Office Starter 2010 will be a free, ad-supported version of the productivity suite, and you'll find it bundled exclusively on pre-built PCs. The software will include special versions of Word and Excel with the same interfaces and document formats as their full-featured counterparts, but only "basic functionality for creating, viewing and editing documents." Users will be able to upgrade to full-featured editions "directly from within the product."
Another upgrade path will come in the form of Office Product Key Cards, which will apparently apply to trial versions of the software, as well. You'll be able to buy the key cards in retail stores, but they won't come with DVD media—just a license key code for Office 2010 Home & Student, Home & Business, or Professional. Microsoft touts this approach as less wasteful and more straightforward. Since some customers will already have the software installed on their PCs in one form or another, an installation DVD could indeed be redundant.
Numoto says a "broad beta" of Office 2010 will be out "later this year." The final product should be out in the first half of 2010.