Microsoft HQ

Microsoft is to include an advertising-supported version of Office 2010 on new PCs as well as offer users a virtualised version that stream Office to a PC to run alongside existing versions.

Microsoft Office Starter 2010 is an advertising-supported, introductory version of the productivity software. The bundle includes Office Word Starter 2010 and Office Excel Starter 2010 that have limited functionality centred on creating, editing and viewing documents.

The software replaces Microsoft Works, which has long shipped with new PCs. On the Office Product Development Group blog, Takeshi Numoto, corporate vice president for Office, wrote that the Starter version is "a consistent Office user experience, such as the Ribbon, with a simple path to upgrade to a fully-featured version of Office 2010."

The Starter version will only be available with new machines, Numoto said. The plan is to get Office 2010 in front of as many consumers as possible.

Microsoft is trying to seed the market for upgrades to its newest software, including Windows 7, which shipped last year, and Office 2010, which ships in June. Microsoft has offered 50 percent discounts for upgrades to Windows 7 and Office 2007 for users still on Windows XP and Office XP. Microsoft traditionally fights against its own aging software on PCs in the battle to get users to upgrade to newer versions.

Microsoft yesterday also revealed US pricing for its full Office line-up: Home and Business, Professional, Home and Student (which includes Office Web Apps) and Professional Academic. UK pricing will be announced later in the year, Microsoft said.

The US pricing includes boxed versions that can be installed on multiple computers or “key-card” versions that require users to buy an activation card to unlock the Office 2010 software pre-installed on their new PCs.

In addition to the Starter version, Microsoft is also offering a Click-to-Run version that lets users test the software without having to install it over their existing version. The virtualised version of Office 2010 will be streamed to desktops from the cloud and run in a virtual machine on a desktop, netbook or other device that might not have an optical drive.

"Click-to-Run solves some of the painful problems that may exist today around using the new offering while you have a previous installation," said Trevor McDiarmid, program manager for Microsoft Office, in a video posted on the Office team blog.