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Another flawed Office update tells users to buy the suite

Breaks file associations in Office 2010 Starter Edition; some customers smell conspiracy

September 19, 2013 09:49 AM ET

Computerworld - Microsoft yesterday acknowledged yet another problem with its Sept. 10 updates, confirming that one of those fixes broke Office 2010 Starter Edition by changing the file associations of already-created documents.

"After installing this update, some users have reported they are unable to open files by double-clicking them, that the file type icons have changed, and that they must go to the application to open files," Microsoft's Office team said in a company blog post Wednesday.

Some customers, said Microsoft, were even told that they needed to buy a copy of the full-scale Office, which starts at $140 for Office Home & Student 2013.

Naturally, that caused some customers to wig out, as their suite -- Office 2010 Starter Edition -- had come free with their PCs.

Starter Edition, which Microsoft did not revive for Office 2013, was the company's 2009 replacement for Microsoft Works, an entry-level application suite that had been offered to OEMs (original equipment manufacturers) for bundling with new PCs. Starter included Word 2010 and Excel 2010. As Microsoft's free OEM offer, Starter was to give new PC buyers a taste of the productivity suite in the hope that they would later pony up for one of the paid editions.

The free edition also included advertisements, the first of Microsoft's market-leading desktop suite to do that, and limited the functionality of Word and Excel. However, they were not time-sensitive versions that stopped working at some point, as earlier Office trial editions had done.

Within hours of the Sept. 10 updates -- part of a larger-than-average Patch Tuesday slate -- users began reporting problems on Microsoft's support forums.

"I have Microsoft Office 2010 Starter. Suddenly, all my files are in .docx format, and I cannot open them," wrote "Kloi" on one thread last Wednesday. "I get a message saying I need to purchase Office. Why has this suddenly happened? How can I change it back?"

Others chimed in to say that they too could not open documents by double-clicking because those files icons had gone blank or turned a strange orange hue.

Among those who saw messages to buy a copy of Office, the more conspiracy-leaning quickly jumped to the conclusion that it was a Microsoft move to force them to upgrade to the full version of the suite.

"Microsoft gets me to put all my files on Word Starter and then holds them hostage forcing me to pay," said "kjeld65" on the same thread. "I was deceived, tricked, and now held hostage by Microsoft. I WILL NOT PAY MICROSOFT HOSTAGE MONEY, AND I WOULD ENCOURAGE OTHERS TO DO LIKEWISE."



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