Simplified line-up, single licenses drive local Office 2010 pricing

Smaller line-up is easier to choose from but still demands a premium over US versions

Microsoft will offer three versions of Office 2010 when it is released instead of the five Office 2007 packages it has previously had on shelves.

The new productivity suite recently reached the release to manufacturing (RTM) milestone, and will be released on May 12 for businesses. A retail launch is yet to be announced but is expected sometime next month.

The three packages - Home and Student, Home and Business and Professional - carry local recommended retail prices of $209, $379 and $849 respectively.

The most basic, Home and Student, will provide Word, Excel, Powerpoint and OneNote, while Home and Business adds Outlook to the mix. The highest tier - Professional - also offers Publisher and Access.

In announcing the local pricing for its newest productivity suite, Microsoft left out two versions - Standard and Ultimate - from the line-up in order to simplify the choice for consumers.

While Office 2010 Home and Student and Professional are the same price as their Office 2007 counterparts, the packages still demand a premium over the same software in the US. Home and Student will be sold in the US for an RRP of $US149.99 ($AUD161.16 at current exchange rates) while Professional is $US499.99 ($AUD537.21 at straight exchange).

Microsoft will also introduce a new way of buying Office, dubbed the "Product Key Card". The cards will provide users with a single-licence serial number, which can be used to unlock pre-installed Office 2010 images on new PCs. Since Microsoft uses a single image for the entire suite, the Product Key Cards can be used to unlock any of the three versions.

The cards will be available at $169, $269 and $499 respectively.

Major PC vendors are expected to pre-load the Office 2010 image on new PCs, with availability beginning in June. Users will be able to access basic Word and Excel functionality through Office Starter 2010, which replaces Microsoft Works, but they will be required to purchase one of the Product Key Cards to unlock all of the productivity suite's features.

While a significant saving over boxed products, the cards only offer a single licence. In contrast, the boxed version of Home and Student has a three-PC licence while the other two versions can be installed on two PCs simultaneously.

Users can already pre-order Office 2010 from Microsoft's online store.

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