Office 2010 To Be Preloaded As One Image With Three Editions

With the launch of Microsoft Office 2010, expected on June 15, the vendor wants to pre-load a new Office image that includes all three versions of the application on between 80 percent and 100 percent of all new systems sold, said Vic Barakat, OEM distribution partner account manager at Microsoft.

That image will include the Home and Student edition, which will include licenses for use on up to three PCs, as well as the Home and Business and the Professionals editions, which will include licenses that allow it to be installed on one desktop PC and one portable PC used by the same user, Barakat said.

Microsoft, through its channel and retail partners, will also sell a new "product key card" or PKC that will allow customers to unlock their preferred version of the application. The PKC will include a code that causes the selected version to automatically turn on in minutes without the need for further installation, and customers can purchase keys at a later date to automatically upgrade to other versions, Barakat said.

Barakat on Thursday unveiled the new licensing scheme during a presentation to solution providers and system builders at the D&H 2010 West Coast Technology Show, held in the City of Industry, Calif.

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The single image containing all three versions is aimed at simplifying the number of SKUs of the software that partners take to customers, and make it easier for them to sell the product, Barakat said.

"So instead of asking the customer, do you want Office with that, now you can ask, 'Which version do you want,'" he said.

Barakat said the PKCs will be available in blister packs for sale to customers in a variety of outlets, which means it is important for solution providers to make the Office 2010 sale with the PC.

In response to an audience member who asked about whether customers can purchase the PKCs from places like Office Depot or eBay, Barakat responded, "You should be able to compete."

Microsoft is also introducing an "Upgrade Anywhere" program whereby customers can upgrade the Home and Student edition or the Home and Business Edition to other editions. Such an upgrade is done by customers contacting Microsoft directly, and does not offer solution providers an opportunity to participate, Barakat said.

"We're trying to tell you right now, if there's a benefit to the customer for you to sell the Professional edition, you should sell them," he said.

Audience members responded immediately, asking why Microsoft is taking them out of the upgrade loop.

Barakat answered by saying that Microsoft does not have a retail system that would tie back into the solution provider's original sale.

"We think it's a good thing," he said, referring to the Upgrade Anywhere program. "We understand the implication for the channel. We apologize for that."

Microsoft on Friday also launched its Microsoft Technology Guarantee program under which customers who purchase Microsoft Office 2007 and activate it by September 30 get a free upgrade to Office 2010, as long as they activate the upgrade by October 31.

Barakat said that customers can download the Office 2010 upgrade starting in mid-June when it is scheduled to be released, or they can order a DVD with the software from Microsoft for $15.

Barakat also said that Office 2010 will be available for downloading by channel partners on about June 1, and that Microsoft plans a media blitz over the new software in July.

Patrick Rayne, IT specialist and CEO of Rayne Technology Solutions, a Monterey, Calif.-based solution provider, said he has been using the beta version of Office 2010 for six months.

Rayne said he likes the beta so much that he has been telling customers who wanted to buy Office 2007 to wait until they can get the upgrade under the Microsoft Technology Guarantee program.

Rayne also said he likes how Microsoft is simplifying the availability of Office 2010 with the PKC, thereby eliminating the need for disks and electronic distribution. Also, he said, it is nice to not have separate disks for different editions of the software.

However, Rayne said his is concerned about how Microsoft plans to handle upgrade requests from customers directly instead of going through partners.

"If a customer upgrades Office later, they pay Microsoft," he said. "I don't see what Microsoft doesn't handle it like it does Office 2007 and provide an upgrade key through its distributors.

John Vickers, president and CEO of Vickers Technology, a Crest, Calif.-based solution provider, said he also appreciates how Microsoft is moving all three versions of Office 2010 into a single image.

"I like how they're reducing the number of SKUs," Vickers said. "Even when customers use Microsoft's online tools to purchase Office, it's still confusing."

However, Vickers said, the fact that Microsoft is eliminating disks from the Office sales process except for those who order the DVD when upgrading from Office 2007 to Office 2010 could lead to problems later.

"People like disks," he said. "I like disks. Especially if a customer buys a computer from Best Buy, or from anywhere. How can they recover if their computer crashes? Microsoft will ask them for their product number, but the numbers are all on the system."

Michael Schwab, co-president of D&H, said that the new PKC is a much more natural way to sell and deploy Microsoft Office than in the past by offering a code that unlocks the application without having to go through the entire installation process.

However, whether upgrading Office via PKC or volume licensing is the better solution is one that solution providers can hash out with their distributors, Schwab said.

"At D&H, we present a single face for Microsoft," he said. "Solution providers can present OEM or packaged solutions or retail solutions. But behind D&H, there are different groups at Microsoft who don't see the whole picture. Our value is to present a unified voice for Microsoft solutions."