May 13, 2010, 11:24 AM — Wednesday's launch of the newest versions of Microsoft Office and SharePoint had a decidedly business bent, and for good reason. Enterprise customers can buy the standalone, business-oriented versions of Office 2010 today, but home and small-business users will likely have to wait a month or more.
Bargain-seeking Office 2010 fans will probably focus on two flavors of Microsoft's popular productivity suite: Office Web Apps and Office Starter Edition. Here are some key factoids:
When is the Web version available?
Office Web Apps will be available on June 15, according to Microsoft.
Are the Web Apps free?
Yes, if you're one of the 500 million people who've signed up for Windows Live, Microsoft's Web-based collection of programs and services. In addition, Office 2010 volume licensing customers will also have access to the Web Apps, which they can run locally on their servers.
So I don't need to buy a desktop version of Office to use the Web Apps?
Correct. However, you will be able to purchase the Office Web Apps through Microsoft Online Services. It's unclear why you'd want to though.
Are the Office Web Apps as good as their desktop counterparts?
No. They're designed to complement the desktop apps. You might, for instance, use the Web Apps to save files on Microsoft's SkyDrive online storage site. Or you could access the Web versions while working remotely from a kiosk, netbook, or other Internet-connected PC.
What's the deal with the free Office Starter Edition?
Starter Edition is a wimpy version of Office 2010 that consists of two products: Word Starter and Excel Starter. It'll be preloaded on all new Windows PCs, and will contain display advertising. (Specifically, the bottom of Starter 2010's Task Pane will include an ad window.)
Upgrading to a more powerful version of Office will be easy, Microsoft says. Example: Starter 2010 users could buy a Product Key Card (at retail outlets), enter the key number in their PCs, and unlock the full Office app.