Microsoft kills Works

Microsoft is dumping its venerable Works application suite and replacing it with an ad-supported, free version of Office 2010, dubbed ‘Starter Edition’.

The company is also planning to allow OEMs to pre-load full versions of the upcoming full version of Office 2010 – due for public beta before the end of the year – which can be unlocked by using a key card to be sold at major electronic outlets. Depending on how much they pay, the key cards will enable users to switch on the features of Office Home & Student 2010, Office Home & Business 2010, or Office Professional 2010.

Speaking on his blog, Office corporate vice president Takeshi Numoto said: “As part of Office 2010 software that will be pre-loaded by the PC manufacturers on their PCs, we’re introducing Microsoft Office Starter 2010. Office Starter 2010 is a reduced-functionality, advertising-supported version of Office 2010, available exclusively on new PCs. Office Starter 2010 will provide new PC owners with immediate exposure to the Office 2010 experience on new PCs right out of the box.”

Numoto adds that Office Starter 2010 will include Office Word Starter 2010 and Office Excel Starter 2010 and offer basic functionality for creating, viewing and editing documents. Office Starter 2010 will replace Microsoft Works, offering a ‘consistent Office user experience’, such as the ribbon, with a simple path to upgrade to a fully-featured version of Office 2010 directly from within the product.

For people who want to try or buy Office 2010 on existing PCs, Microsoft is launching Click-to-Run, a new and enhanced download experience for consumers. Click-to-Run enables customers to try or buy Office digitally by significantly reducing the time and effort required to download Office 2010 over the Internet.

Click-to-Run automatically downloads and installs any software patches when connected to the internet, helping people maintain and keep their Office software up-to-date. Click-to-Run uses virtualization technology so it allows customers to maintain multiple versions of Office. This enables them to try Office 2010 side-by-side with the existing version of Office.

Starter Edition comes free because it’s not fully-functioned and is supported by ads, although Microsoft isn’t providing any details of this at present. Provided the teaser version of Office isn’t too hobbled and the ads aren’t too ghastly, it could well tempt users to fork out for a full version.

We’ve been running the technical preview of the full-blown version of Office 2010 for a few months now and it has sufficient enhancements to both functionality and look ‘n feel to make us reticent to go back to an earlier version. It’s also 100 percent stable – no mean feat for Alpha software of this complexity, especially seeing as up until recently, we’ve been running it on top of beta versions of Windows 7…