Microsoft offers many versions of Office 2010. Here's a chart

Why force users to endure an ad-supported limited version now?

Microsoft has revealed a whole plethera of options and prices for Office 2010. On Tuesday it announced the prices for four boxed retail versions and three "key card" versions. It has also promised a free, advertising supported version (available only on new PCs).

I've pieced together a chart from a variety of sources including Microsoft's official pricing announcement via its Microsoft Office team blog, and news stories hosted in Network World.

Remember, the Product Key Card is nothing more than the price you pay to upgrade the freebie, limited starter version that is bundled on a new PC to a fuller, paid-for version. You buy it at major retail outlets. The boxed versions reportedly support two installations, so if you have to wipe your hard drive and start over, that's handy to know. The PKC will only activiate the bundled version. If you want to install Office 2010 on an older PC, you can't buy the PKC.

Given that Microsoft has been offering Works without ads for a couple of decades now, I'm not sure it isn't thumbing its nose at those who buy a new Windows PC. Why must they deal with an ad-supported Microsoft Office Starter at this point? Won't that simply drive them into the free and open arms of Office.org?

Best deal in the bunch is obviously the academic version. Microsoft is charging three-to-four times more for the exact same bundle if you don't qualify for the academic version. Doesn't seem like a reasonable price gap to me but if people are willing to pay that much more for Publisher and Access, who am I to judge?

Version Boxed Product Product Key Card
Microsoft Office Starter 2010

Includes:

Office Word Starter 2010

Office Excel Starter 2010

(offers limited functionality. Replaces Microsoft Works).

N/A Included with new PCs.
Office Home and Student

Includes:

Word 2010

Excel 2010

PowerPoint 2010

OneNote 2010

$149 $119
Office Home and Business

Includes:

Word 2010

Excel 2010

PowerPoint 2010

OneNote 2010

Outlook 2010

$279 $199
Office Professional

Includes:

Word 2010

Excel 2010

PowerPoint 2010

OneNote 2010

Outlook 2010

Publisher 2010

Access 2010

$499 $349
Office Professional Academic(The same package as the $499 Office Professional)

Word 2010

Excel 2010

PowerPoint 2010

OneNote 2010

Outlook 2010

Publisher 2010

Access 2010

$99 N/A

These are retail prices of course.

If you roll out Office 2010 at your enterprise, you'll be using an enterprise volume license and the process is the same as the one implemented for Vista (and also in place for Windows Server 2008 & R2 and Windows 7), Microsoft says. These are the Multiple Activation Key (MAK) and the Key Management Service (KMS).

I once took a TechEd course on these two technologies, and all I can say is, if you haven't dealt with MAK or KMS, before you buy, get some training. In a nutshell, MAK authenticates Office from a Microsoft hosted server and is necessary for organizations that have lots of laptops roaming around not connected to the network. KMS is a local service that manages keys via your network.

I've been playing with the Office 2010 beta and I like it. I haven't found it to be superiour to Office 2007 in any significant way, however, but I do prefer Microsoft Office, with all its bells and whistles, to any of the word processing/spreadsheet freeware I've used (including Google Apps).

Like this post? Check out these others.

Plus, visit the Microsoft Subnet web site for more news, blogs, podcasts. Subscribe to all Microsoft Subnet bloggers. Sign up for the bi-weekly Microsoft newsletter. (Click on News/Microsoft News Alert.)

Follow All Microsoft Subnet bloggers on Twitter

Follow Julie Bort on Twitter
Join the Network World communities on Facebook and LinkedIn to comment on topics that are top of mind.
Must read: 10 new UI features coming to Windows 10