Betanews reported yesterday on the Microsoft announcement that a cut down ad-supported version of Office 2010 will be distributed for free on new Windows 7 PCs. Users will be able to pay for access to the full version with no ads (the full version will be pre-installed and the user will purchase a license key which which gives access).
This could be a watershed moment in the general move towards ‘free’ for digital goods – depending on how Microsoft set this up.
It will be interesting to see how useful the free version is and then how many people upgrade. Office has long been criticised for being bloated with features which aren’t used by many people, so it could be that most remain happy with the free version.
The other interesting dynamic here is desktop versus cloud. This move from Microsoft has the potential to breathe a new leaf of life into traditional software at the expense of hosted alternatives like Google Docs.