Microsoft to put free Office Starter 2010 on new PCs

Bare bones, ad-supported Office 2010 includes Word and Excel

Microsoft announced today that it will abandon its decades-old Works entry-level suite, and will instead offer a stripped-down, advertising-supported version of Office 2010 on new PCs next year.

Dubbed Office Starter 2010, the new edition will include only Word 2010 and Excel 2010, dropping PowerPoint 2010 and OneNote 2010 -- the other applications that will be bundled with the lowest-priced package, Home & Student -- as well as Outlook 2010, which is part of the next-level-up Home & Business edition.

Office Starter 2010 will not be a trial edition that times out, said a Microsoft manager today. "Office Starter is different than a trial, in the sense that there's no expiration," said Scott Kahler, the test manager for the new suite, in a video posted on a company blog. "You can continue using it until your needs exceed what Starter can give you."

At that point, Microsoft hopes that users will pay for a more substantial version. "We insure that when you've upgraded, all your documents come across," added Brian Albrecht, Office's group program manager, in the same video clip. "There's no conversion or anything that needs to happen, and everything's there for you."

According to Takeshi Numoto, the corporate vice president for Office, users who want to upgrade to the Home & Student, Home & Business or Professional editions from Starter will be able to do so within Microsoft's software by purchasing a product activation key online or on a card that will be available at major electronics retailers.

All the bits for those three editions will be installed on new PCs that offer Officer Starter; a purchased key will simply "unlock" the appropriate version, so that no additional software need be downloaded.

Starter 2010's two applications will be "reduced-functionality" editions, said Numoto. But with one exception, he declined to get specific about what would be included in Word Starter 2010 and Excel Starter 2010, or what features within the for-money versions would be omitted.

"They'll suit the basic productivity needs for consumers," he argued, adding that their functionality would be on par with Microsoft Works, which has been criticized for not offering full file compatibility with Office itself. "Word Starter 2010 users won't be able to create SmartArt, for example," said Numoto, citing the single example of a missing feature in the free version. "But they'll be able to edit [other content] in documents that include SmartArt, then return them to the original user without losing any formatting."

Office Starter will include on-screen advertisements, acknowledged Numoto, making it the first edition of Microsoft's long-standing desktop suite to do so. "There will be a tile in the lower-right-hand side of the window," he said, where an ad will be displayed.

Microsoft will also use a new technology, called Click-To-Run, to deliver Office 2010 trial editions to owners of older PCs. The technology, which the company debuted in the Technical Preview of Office 2010 that went out to an invitation-only group of testers in July, "streams" pieces of the suite to users who begin a download, letting them start using the suite within minutes. While users work with the trial, the remainder of the code is downloaded in the background by Click-To-Run.

"It's almost like you're 'playing' the application," Numoto said.

Numoto declined to say whether users upgrading from Office Starter will pay a lower price than the list price of retail boxed copies. "We're not getting into price points at this time," he said.

Microsoft has launched invite-only previews of the desktop version of Office 2010 , as well as the online edition, pegged as Office Web Apps . The latter, which include lightweight versions of Word, Excel and PowerPoint, will be made available to millions free of charge in the first half of next year, the suite's current ship window.

"This is a way for us to reach a lot of customers that we haven't reached before," Numoto said, explaining Microsoft's strategy behind Office Starter, Click-To-Run and the new card-based licenses to be sold at retail. "This will get people a taste for Office, people who may not have been exposed to Office before."

Join the newsletter!


Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags MicrosoftOffice 2010

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.
Gregg Keizer

Gregg Keizer

Computerworld (US)
Show Comments

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles


PCW Evaluation Team

Tom Pope

Dynabook Portégé X30L-G

Ultimately this laptop has achieved everything I would hope for in a laptop for work, while fitting that into a form factor and weight that is remarkable.

Tom Sellers


This smart laptop was enjoyable to use and great to work on – creating content was super simple.

Lolita Wang


It really doesn’t get more “gaming laptop” than this.

Jack Jeffries


As the Maserati or BMW of laptops, it would fit perfectly in the hands of a professional needing firepower under the hood, sophistication and class on the surface, and gaming prowess (sports mode if you will) in between.

Taylor Carr


The MSI PS63 is an amazing laptop and I would definitely consider buying one in the future.

Christopher Low

Brother RJ-4230B

This small mobile printer is exactly what I need for invoicing and other jobs such as sending fellow tradesman details or step-by-step instructions that I can easily print off from my phone or the Web.

Featured Content

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?