Microsoft is announcing that their Office 2010 Starter Edition will be ad supported and available for free. The catch is that the Starter Edition will only be offered on a new computer sale and not for a free download. The Starter Edition will only include Word and Excel and be stripped down versions of the full product. On their web site Microsoft states the following information:

As part of Office 2010 software that will be pre-loaded by the PC manufacturers on their PCs, we’re introducing Microsoft Office Starter 2010. Office Starter 2010 is a reduced-functionality, advertising-supported version of Office 2010, available exclusively on new PCs. Office Starter 2010 will provide new PC owners with immediate exposure to the Office 2010 experience on new PCs right out of the box.

Office Starter 2010 will include Office Word Starter 2010 and Office Excel Starter 2010, with the basic functionality for creating, viewing and editing documents. Office Starter 2010 will replace Microsoft Works, offering a consistent Office user experience, such as the Ribbon, with a simple path to upgrade to a fully-featured version of Office 2010 directly from within the product.

For people who want to try or buy Office 2010 on existing PCs, Microsoft is unveiling Click-to-Run, a new and enhanced download experience for consumers. Click-to-Run makes it easier than ever for customers to try or buy Office digitally by significantly reducing the time and effort required to download Office 2010 over the Internet. Click-to-Run automatically downloads and installs any software patches when connected to the Internet, helping people maintain and keep their Office software up-to-date. Click-to-Run uses virtualization technology so it allows customers to maintain multiple versions of Office. This enables them to try Office 2010 side-by-side with the existing version of Office.

We will have the broad beta of Office 2010 later this year and invite people to become familiar with Office 2010, in the way that works best for them, and then easily upgrade to a full version of Office Home and Student 2010, Office Home and Business 2010, or Office Professional 2010 when they’re ready to buy.

This is another indication that we need to thank Google for coming out with their web applications that have forced Microsoft to follow Google’s lead. This should add more competition in the office marketplace and benefit us consumers.

Comments welcome.

Source – Microsoft blog site for Office 2010.