Microsoft Office for those who really don’t need Microsoft Office

I recently had a very pleasant experience when purchasing a new PC for my Mother.  She’s basically a user of email and instant messaging.  Plus, she writes about 10 letters (e.g., “please change my address…”) a year in Microsoft Word.  Word 2003 that is.  I was a little apprehensive about spending ~$100 for a copy of Microsoft Office Home and Student 2010 just so she could write a few simple letters.  Fortunately, when I set up her PC I discovered it came with Microsoft Office Starter 2010 installed.  This version of Office includes ad-supported reduced functionality versions of Word and Excel.  PERFECT!

I had my mother give Word 2010 a spin and she was very happy with it.  In fact, because she really didn’t know Word 2003 at all it turned out she liked the Ribbon interface.  That makes her the first person I’ve ever met whose initial reaction to transitioning to the Ribbon was positive!  Second pleasant surprise of the day.

I don’t know if the Starter edition is really doing anything for Microsoft’s Office business,   but it does keep consumers with only minimal need for word processing or spreadsheet capability from moving to alternatives such as Open Office or Google Apps.  Lets face it, spending $100 on top of your $350 PC to write a few letters just doesn’t make economic sense. 

There is something else to like about Office Starter 2010.  If you do need more capability, for example because you start a home business, you can just buy a key to enable full Office functionality.  My Mother doesn’t need this, but I know a lot of people who do.

Of course this isn’t the only way to get Microsoft Office for little or no money.  Employees of large organizations can usually get a full copy of Office Pro for $9.95 through the Home User Program.  And I love that I can use Office Web Apps for free, no matter what PC I’m on, to edit documents stored in Windows Live Skydrive.

The bottom line is that I don’t know how well all these programs serve Microsoft shareholders (though they sure haven’t hurt them as of yet), but they are fantastic for consumers!

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