Talk about timing. I spent the bulk of my morning writing about the Freemium trend across the managed services market. Within a few hours I spotted this little item: Microsoft is building a free, advertising-based suite called Office 2010 Starter. Here are the details.
According to the Microsoft Office 2010 Engineering blog:
"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."Microsoft says Office Starter 2010 will include Office Word Starter 2010 and Office Excel Starter 2010, with the basic functionality for creating, viewing and editing documents. It basically replaces Microsoft Works.
Smart strategy. But will it work? That depends: Office Starter 2010 better have "enough" functionality to keep novices happy... but there needs to be a strong motivating factor to get users to upgrade to full-blown (i.e., paid) Microsoft Office suites.
The Bigger PictureMicrosoft's move reinforces the Freemium trend: Get people hooked on a free, starter product then inspire them to upgrade to a more powerful option. But not all ad-based Freemium efforts work.
One prime example: Unison Communications launched a free, ad-driven unified communications system last year. But I haven't heard much about market momentum in recent months...
I must admit: I like Microsoft's move, assuming Office Starter 2010 actually works as advertised.