Office 2010: No Upgrade Pricing, No Transfers, No Way!

I’m a Microsoft Office devotee. Sure, cloud-based apps are fine. But I like dependable, fast software right on my own computer. My life revolves fairly happily around Outlook. You can pry Excel out of my cold dead fingers. But maybe it’ll be Excel 2007 you’ll be prying away, because Office 2010’s new pricing policy has really ticked me off.

I’ve been using the beta version of Office 2010 for several months. It’s been great. Outlook has had many helpful improvements that continue making it a solid program. Excel? Well, I still miss the simplicity of Excel 2003. But at least Excel 2010 didn’t make anything worse than the confusion Excel 2007 unleashed. PowerPoint remains solid and Word, yeah, I rarely load that bloatware.

Dude, Where’s My Upgrade?

Now Office 2010 is out for sale. I got an email invite today to purchase it, since I’m a beta user. Absolutely! I clicked through to see what the upgrade pricing was:

Nothing. No mention of upgrade pricing.

I thought maybe it was a marketing trick. You know, don’t list that there’s an upgrade price and maybe they’ll pay full price. So I started digging around.

Upgrade Pricing Is Too Confusing For Mere Mortals

In the end, I found this on the FAQ page:

To simplify our Office 2010 product offering, version upgrade suites are no longer available. However, we are now offering more ways to buy Office 2010 with a new preloaded PC. For more information on Product Key Cards, visit

But Two “Home” Products Is Crystal Clear

Seriously? Upgrade pricing was confusing? I mean, if Microsoft really wants to simplify things, here’s a thought. How about one suite that includes everything for a single price rather than the three suites that require a comparison chart:

Not only are there still three different suites but two of them are both “Home” versions:

All this concern that upgrade pricing would be confusing, but putting out two “Home” versions isn’t?

The difference, of course, is that “Home & Student” is for those doing “non-commercial” work. If you’re not making money in any way using that version of Office, you’re good. That’s pretty clear from the product name, right?

No Upgrade Price Feels Like Price Increase

I’ve been using Microsoft Office for I think as long as there’s been an Microsoft Office, and I’ve always had the ability to upgrade. I’ve also always upgraded because of it. In one way, it has rewarded my loyalty and kept me from moving. When I was just starting out, it was also an important price break. Every penny saved helped.

These days, I’m not so much price sensitive as fairness sensitive. It just feels wrong that in Microsoft’s new world, there’s no upgrade discount. But sure, I can also agree that really, each “upgrade” has really been a new product, so maybe it’s time we get over the entire “upgrade” idea.

Maybe I’ll Upgrade To “Free”

Still, there’s another change that’s been happening. I, and many other people, are weighing a decision to buy Microsoft’s entirely new software — with no upgrade discount — against Google Docs. Which are free.

What the hell is Microsoft thinking? Faced with a competing product that’s free, it effectively ups the price of its software for millions of loyal users?

Heck, Microsoft Office as software is even now competing with Microsoft Office on the web, which is also free. Excel on the web looks pretty good. Why again should I be paying Microsoft what feels like a higher price for its software, when it wants to give me much of that software for free?

Avoid The Limited “Product Key Card” Preloaded Edition

How about that way Microsoft says you can save by purchasing a preloaded version on a new PC, the Product Key Card option. Yeah, avoid that. Sure, it’ll save you $70 off the Home & Business edition. But you’ll only be able to install it one one computer and not transfer it to another computer, if yours should die or you upgrade to a new machine.

In contrast, the regular version of Office maintains the enlightened approach Microsoft has had for many years. You could run it on two devices, great for those who go from a laptop and desktop computer. It’s a wonderful policy. And if you need to move the license, you can.

The formal lingo from Microsoft:

If you purchase a Traditional Disc retail license of Office Home and Business 2010 or Office Professional 2010, the retail license terms allow you to install, activate, and use Office Home and Business 2010 or Office Professional 2010 on your primary PC and your portable device such as your laptop. This license is for your use exclusively.

If you purchase an Office 2010 Product Key Card, you can only activate and use the suite on one PC or device.

Waiting & Watching

When my beta expires on October 31, yeah, I’ll probably buy the retail version then. It is great software. I do want software in addition to cloud-based options. But I’ll be holding my nose as I do it, if the current price point is maintained. Or I’ll be shopping around like at Amazon, where the Home & Student edition is currently $20 cheaper than what Microsoft is selling it for ($129 versus $149) and the Home & Business version is $30 cheaper ($239 versus $279).

I may or may not earn off those links to Amazon, by the way, if you click and buy that way. Currently Amazon’s affiilate program doesn’t support direct linking to those products, for reasons that are beyond me. But I’d rather point directly to the right place to save readers money, regardless if it fills my Amazon tip jar.

For related Office 2010 launch news, see Techmeme. Also check out this nice hands-on with the free web version of Office by Charles Arthur at The Guardian.

Postscript: I forgot to mention there is upgrade pricing for one unique situation. That’s if you bought a qualifying version of Microsoft Office 2007 between March 5 and September 30, 2010, as explained here. In that case, you can download Office 2010 for free or get the DVD version for a fee (I can’t find how much this is).

Oddly, this means that potentially people can find copies of Office 2007 out there, which should begin to be heavily discounted, and get a free copy of Office 2010. Of course, the copies have to come from authorized retailers, which apparently is anyone but eBay and Craigslist, as those are the only two places singled out as not authorized (no authorized list is given).

Amazingly, you can even upgrade for free from recently purchased Office 2007 upgrade editions. In other words, you can buy a cheaper version of Office 2007 right now, if you can find it. Then you never need to use it. You just need the product ID to get a free version of Office 2010.

Right now on Amazon, Office Pro 2007 Upgrade is $300. That’s $160 less than the version of Office 2010 that it allows you to upgrade to. Crazy.

Also, Kelbyj who’s with Microsoft marketing, apparently judging from his Twitter bio, tweeted:

Re: upgrade pricing – Truth is not many users bought the upgrade so we optimized 4 new PC purchases.  Would love 2 chat more.

That does help to know.