Getting The Best Value For Microsoft Office 2010

Ahead of its planned June release, Microsoft has finally announced some Australian pricing for Office 2010. What’s the best-value option for prospective buyers, assuming you like what’s on offer in the suite?

Before reviewing the pricing, it’s worth dealing with a couple of basic issues. Obviously, if you don’t like Office for practical or philosophical reasons, then OpenOffice (plus Thunderbird or webmail) is a fine and entirely free alternative. If you’re a university student, then hunting down a specific student deal makes more sense than just buying the student-branded bundle.

There’s no specific upgrade prices on offer yet — these are the boxed copy retail prices (which retailers may choose to ignore). From this point, the free upgrade offer for 2007 buyers is likely to be ignored, so tread carefully if you’re thinking about sneaky upgrade discoutns.

‘OEM copies’ of Office 2010 may also prove to be a cheaper route once the software is on sale, as they have for other Microsoft products in the past, but there’s an important caveat. Microsoft is now offering what it calls ‘Product Key Card’ versions of Office 2010, which are designed to let people who purchase new PCs with trial versions of the software already on board upgrade that installation to a full version. Given that context, an OEM copy might well be worthless, since it won’t be fully activated until the Product Key Card is included. (For that reason, we haven’t included the Product Key Card versions in the discussion below).

With all that said, here’s the pricing. The Home and Student edition, including Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote, costs $209. The Home and Business edition, which adds Outlook, costs $269. The Professional edition, which adds Publisher and Access, costs a rather more senior $849.

Microsoft is heavily promoting the fact that the Home and Business skew is $370 cheaper than the nearest equivalent for 2007. However, that version now drops Publisher in favour of OneNote — good news if you’re a note-taking guru, bad news if you use Publisher for business documents.

My gut feel is that the extra money spent to get Outlook is worth it, but if you’re a dedicated online mail user, it’s probably not necessary. Also remember that even if you’re running a 64-bit OS, you’ll most likely want to purchase and install 32-bit versions of the Office 2010 products.

Reckon those prices are fair value? Too high? Too low? Share your thoughts in the comments.

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