Microsoft kicks off free Office 2013 upgrades

Free copy of Office 2013 -- or sub to Office 365 -- now comes with purchase of Office 2010

Microsoft on Friday launched an Office upgrade offer that gives customers who purchase the current Office 2010 a free copy of the upcoming Office 2013.

The deal, stuck with the official title of "Microsoft Office Pre-launch Offer," started Oct. 19 and ends April 30, 2013. Customers who buy a retail copy of Office 2010 for Windows or one of several stand-alone applications within that period can download a free copy of the corresponding version of Office 2013, or in some cases, choose a free one-year subscription to an Office 365 plan.

Although Microsoft has announced Office 2013, provided a preview of the new suite and named prices, it has not set a launch date. Most expect Office 2013, and the Office 365 plans that rely on it, to ship in late January or early February 2013.

The upgrade or Office 365 subscription will be available when Office 2013 debuts.

Microsoft regularly runs such deals for Office. In 2010, it kicked off a "technology guarantee" for buyers of Office 2007, giving them a free upgrade to Office 2010 for several months bracketing the latter's retail launch.

The difference this time is that Microsoft is giving customers options.

Buyers of Office Home & Student 2010, for example, can choose either a perpetual-licensed copy of Office Home & Student 2013 or a one-year subscription to Office 365 Home Premium, the plan that lets consumers install and run Office 2013 on up to five PCs or tablets in a household.

Those who purchase the business-grade Office Professional 2010, on the other hand, will be able to pick between Office Professional 2013 plus a three-month subscription to Office Small Business Premium, or a one-year subscription to Office 365 Home Premium.

Since Microsoft will not be upgrading Office for Mac anytime soon, buyers of that suite will receive a one-year subscription to Office 365 Home Premium. All Office 365 plans let subscribers install and run five copies of Office on Windows PCs or Macs in any combination.

Some caveats apply: While Office 2010 will run on Windows XP, Vista, Windows 7 or even the upcoming Windows 8, Office 2013 works only on Windows 7 and Windows 8.

But the combination of the free deal and Microsoft's decision to raise prices for Office 2013 give customers a way to save money: Purchase a copy of Home & Student 2010, for instance, which Amazon currently discounts to $99.99, and later receive a free copy of Home & Student 2013 that will list for $139.99.

Customers must redeem the free offer no later than May 31, 2013.

Details about the upgrade offer, including a full list of eligible versions of Office 2010 and Office for Mac 2011, can be found on this Microsoft website, with even more information available on the offer's terms page.

Gregg Keizer covers Microsoft, security issues, Apple, Web browsers and general technology breaking news for Computerworld. Follow Gregg on Twitter at  @gkeizer, on Google+ or subscribe to Gregg's RSS feed . His email address is gkeizer@computerworld.com.

See more by Gregg Keizer on Computerworld.com.

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