Microsoft mimics move on Windows, dumps upgrades for Mac Office

Copies pricing, app mix and edition names for Office 2011 on the Mac from Windows' Office 2010

Microsoft today said that it will not sell upgrades for the upcoming Office for Mac 2011, mimicking the move it made earlier this year when it ditched upgrades for the Windows Office 2010.

The new suite's lowest-priced edition will also lack a dedicated e-mail client, another decision copied from Windows.

Earlier Monday, Microsoft set an end-of-October launch of Office for Mac 2011; debuted a free offer for anyone who purchases its predecessor, Office for Mac 2008, between Aug. 1 and Nov. 30; and revamped the editions it will offer and their prices.

Microsoft acknowledged that the last of those three was to bring the Mac version of its suite in line with the more widely-sold Windows edition. "For better alignment across platforms, the Office 2011 pricing and edition options map closer with Office for the Windows operating system," said Microsoft in a statement.

Microsoft touted the new prices. "The new Office 2011 lineup makes purchasing decisions easier -- with a lower price-per-installation for all editions ... [and] these changes ensure that customers get the right products and applications at the right price."

Prices will be lower at best, the same at worst.

The entry-level edition, Home and Student 2011, costs $149 for a three-license version, the same price as the comparable 2008 package. But the new single-license version will run $119, a savings of $30 for those who have only one computer.

On a per-install basis, however, the $119 edition is no bargain: Users who have two computers can effectively get Office 2011 (or the current 2008) for just $75 per machine, and if they install it on three Macs, the cost drops to less than $50 per system.

Microsoft has not offered an upgrade price for Home and Student in the past.

The situation's better for buyers looking at Office for Mac Home and Business 2011, which, like the cheaper Home and Student, takes its name from a Windows edition.

There, the single-license version runs $199, a $41 savings from the $240 upgrade price for the comparable Office 2008 edition, Office for Business 2008. A two-license package of Home and Business 2011 will cost $279, or $140 per installation, significantly less that the $400 for the current full version of Mac Office for Business 2008.

Customers used to upgrading still save under Home and Business' pricing, since an upgrade to what had originally been called Office for Mac 2008 -- and later renamed Business -- was for just one license.

With the introduction of the one-license versions of Home and Student and Home and Business, Microsoft is taking the Mac edition of Office down the same path walked earlier by Office 2010. In January 2010, Microsoft confirmed that it would not offer "upgrade" pricing for Office 2010, a move that effectively raised the cost for some users planning on migrating.

Historically, Microsoft has sold discounted versions to users who already have an earlier edition on their PCs, whether that's Office or Windows. This year, Microsoft instead instituted the same single-license pricing it announced today for the Mac.

It's unclear whether Microsoft will also mimic Office 2010's product key card -- a small credit card-sized piece of plastic sold at retail that includes a single license activation key -- for the Mac. Microsoft has pitched the key card as a simpler way to obtain upgrade rights to Office 2010. The public relations firm that handles Office for the Mac for Microsoft did not respond to a request for comment.

The company is also duplicating the application mix of its Windows suite in the Mac versions.

Office for Mac Home and Student 2011, for example, will not include the Outlook e-mail client, just as Office Home and Student on Windows omits that program. That's a change for Mac users, who have been getting the Entourage e-mail software with the 2008 version of Mac Office.

The users most likely to be affected are those who were buying Home and Student 2008, then running Entourage rather than Apple's own Mail client. The copy of Entourage in Home and Student was deliberately crippled so it could not connect with a company's Exchange mail server.

Microsoft will also sell an academic edition of Office 2011 for $99 that includes Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Outlook -- the same apps included with Home and Business -- to college students, faculty and staff.

To keep customers buying Office 2008, Microsoft launched a Technology Guarantee program Monday that will let users download a free copy of Office 2011 if they purchased the older edition between Aug. 1 and the end of November. Consumers who purchase Office for Mac Home and Student 2008 will get the three-license version of the 2011 suite, while people who buy the 2008 Business Edition in full, upgrade or student versions will receive a free copy of the two-license Home and Business 2011.

More information on the free upgrade program has been published on Microsoft's Web site.

Office for Mac was last upgraded in January 2009, when Microsoft released the 2008 edition several months later than projected earlier.

Gregg Keizer covers Microsoft, security issues, Apple, Web browsers and general technology breaking news for Computerworld. Follow Gregg on Twitter at @gkeizer or subscribe to Gregg's RSS feed . His e-mail address is gkeizer@ix.netcom.com.

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