I’ve been running Windows 8 in a dual-boot configuration and I’ll be voicing my initial thoughts after a month of testing and using the OS daily. Microsoft is clearly taking this whole convergence thing to the next level – Windows 8, to a large extent, attempts to mimic Google’s Chrome OS in certain features and the always-online component once again comes in to trash the traditional Windows people around the world have loved for years. Its a complete departure from the OS we’ve known and gotten used to since 2002 with the release of XP.

One of the biggest staples that was always in an XP install was Microsoft Office. Since the launch of Office 2010, Microsoft offered a stripped-down version of Office Starter 2010, featuring free versions of Excel and Word with a sidebar for advertising Office 2010 packages. I installed Starter on many PCs where customers had tried other office packages and had finally resorted to piracy. Having something available like Starter helped a great deal, especially in the area of brand loyalty – suddenly they were satisfied that there was still a Microsoft and Windows-friendly alternative for them. Users who had been running old copies of Office could move with the times without breaking the bank or introducing a learning curve by migrating to Open Office. But now Microsoft has figured out another way to shoot itself in the foot – by killing OEM Office Starter packs, starting with all PCs that will ship with Windows 8 at the end of this year.

The company this week announced that all computers shipping with Windows 8 would instead come with a link for the online Office 365 app. Office 365 is part of Windows Live and features online versions of Word, Excel, OneNote and PowerPoint.  Its the alternative to Google Docs with the exception that Microsoft probably won’t ever allow Office 365 to support an offline version. That would introduce more complexity and mess up their idea that Windows should now live forever in the cloud and ties in perfectly with its Windows Phone initiative.

Office 365 works in just about any browser.

While I can understand their logic here, its what one would call a dick move; the uptake of Starter has only been aided by new computer and OEM license sales by computer shops and retail stores – that means its most used by people who couldn’t justify the price of Office Home and Student. Redmond figured that people would have grown tired of the software limitations like the lack of detailed formatting and certain other features and buy more expensive retail licenses. In its great need for more money, the company overlooked the most important and critical part of software – the price. Starter is free. Open Office is free. People like free stuff in general and this applies to a lot of things in life – free food, free music, Free Parking and free porn.

In fact, there’s a crapload of free productivity and office-focused apps out there ready to take over its own creation at a moment’s notice. Throwing out the idea just because it isn’t making them any money isn’t something I’d have expected of a company that prefers to keep people within its software umbrella. If you buy a computer, its normally sold with software made or approved by Microsoft – that’s been the expectation since 1998 and it still hasn’t changed 14 years later.

The all-in-one Microsoft Experience™ demonstrated by Windows 8 might work for countries where the internet is a commodity rather an a valuable resource, but in a bandwidth-rich country like ours with a monopolised data price, it won’t work as well as it would in other parts of the world. If Microsoft won’t keep Starter alive, they can kiss that userbase goodbye. If you’re a Starter user and you’re migrating to Windows 8, doing a upgrade install will still wipe out Starter, or at the very least revoke its free license and offer you Office 365 as an alternative. If you’re sticking to Windows 7, Starter will remain free for the remainder of the time that you don’t alter your install – a re-install will trigger the same action as Windows 8. You can, optionally, install an update that Microsoft will make Starter 2010 available for users upgrading their OS, allowing the Starter license to remain in use with your shiny new Metro-based OS.

Source: Tom’s Hardware

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