When Microsoft revealed the retail pricing for its Office 2010 lineup earlierthis week, there was one piece of information that previous Office pricing announcements have almost always included. Upgrade versions are nonexistent. This isn’t a case of pricing that has not yet been finalized—no, consumers who already have an earlier Office release on their PC will simply not have the option to purchase discounted upgrade versions. We contacted Microsoft to see why it had made such a decision with Office 2010, and the company responded that it was part of the goal of simplifying the Office lineup (Microsoft has been trying to do this in many of the new versions of its products, including Visual Studio 2010 for example).
“We are not offering upgrade pricing for Office 2010,” a Microsoft spokesperson confirmed with Ars. “Based on partner and customer feedback we’ve made many changes to the Office 2010 lineup designed to simplify the product lineup and pricing in the retail space. Removing version upgrades was one of those decisions. This reduces the number of products that our retail partners need to manage and also reduces customer confusion about which version of Office they should purchase.”
With previous Office releases, users who qualified for an upgrade (owning the previous version, or even the one before that) were enticed by a lower upgrade price to buy the latest version. The “full version” had a higher price and was for those who did not qualify, for those who did not bother to find out the difference and wanted to play it safe, or for those that did not want to deal with the hassle of having the previous version installed.
With Office 2010, Microsoft has eliminated this age-old concept completely (though you can bet there will be promotions soon after Office 2010’s launch to get users of older versions to upgrade). The new concept actually has a few advantages, though it’s a bit more complicated, if only because we’ve grown accustomed to the previous Microsoft strategy.
Each Office SKU still has two prices, but now instead of “upgrade” and “full” they are Full Packaged Product (FPP) and Product Key Card (PKC). The FPP price of each SKU will get you the Office 2010 media you need to install the suite as well as two licences (the Home and Student SKU is actually a Family Pack that will get you three licenses). The PKC price, which is lower, only gets you one license, and doesn’t come with any media. You’ll need to get the media from elsewhere: download a trial copy from Office.com or use a previously purchased retail copy of Office 2010 (it doesn’t matter if it’s your own, a friend’s, or a colleague’s). The PKC license can also be used in conjunction with the ad-supported Office 2010 Starter (basic versions of Word and Excel) that is set to replace Microsoft Works as the preinstalled productivity suite on newly purchased PCs. That is, preloaded images of Office 2010 will be available on these PCs and you will be able to unlock them by putting in the alphanumeric code from the PKC.
In short, while the upgrade promotion concept is dead in the water with Office 2010, you’ll still be able to save money (and the environment) if you weigh your options right. This especially applies if you’re planning on buying more than one license of Office 2010. You’ll just have to stomach, however, that whether you have a previous version or not doesn’t matter anymore.