Microsoft Ditching Works for Ad-Supported Office Starter 2010

Microsoft Works, which is frequently offered as part of new PCs, is about to meet its end. Instead, in an interesting move, Microsoft announced it will allow OEMs to install the entire Office 2010 Suite on new PCs in a free, ad-supported form, but with much functionality disabled unless an activation key is purchased.

The new version will be called Office Starter 2010. Office Starter 2010 will include Office Word Starter 2010 and Office Excel Starter 2010, with basic functionality for creating, viewing and editing documents. Microsoft indicated that the Starter version will have the same basic functionality that Microsoft Works does.

You'll recall that Anytime Upgrade for Windows 7 works differently than for Windows Vista; the bits are already on your hard drive and simply need to be activated with a key. The same is true of Office Starter 2010; by purchasing an activation key that will be sold on Product Key Cards (shown above), consumers can upgrade to Office Home & Student 2010, Office Home & Business 2010, or Office Professional 2010 without installing extra software.

This software, of course, will come pre-installed on new PCs. For those with older systems, Microsoft will sort of stream Office 2010 to their PCs when required using Click-To-Run, a new technology, which the company unveiled in the July invitation-only Technical Preview of Office 2010. It downloads the essential pieces you need for the task at hand, and does the rest in the background.

Microsoft Office 2010 - Visio - Click for high res...

Of course, Office 2010 hasn't even been released yet. Microsoft will offer a broader (and presumably, public) beta later in the year. At this point, Microsoft has much to be concerned with in terms of its Office offerings, as it will continue to have competition with Google Docs, OpenOffice, and eventually, its own Web Apps.

And yes, Office 2010 will have the much-maligned "Ribbon."