Microsoft has announced how many chickens you're going to have to cough up for the latest Office 2010. Prices are generally looking better than ever, especially with a new 'product key card' option for special digital purchases. Just be careful of the catch...
Office Home and Student 2010: Boxed RRP $209; Product Key Card RRP $169 Includes Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote
Office Home and Business 2010: Boxed RRP $379; Product Key Card RRP $269 Includes Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote and Outlook
Office Professional 2010: Boxed RRP $849; Product Key Card RRP $499 Includes Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, Outlook, Publisher and Access
The Home and Business 2010 pricing is a big win over previous versions, at around $370 cheaper than comparable line ups of the past. Microsoft points this at the previous 'Small Business 2007' version, with Publisher switched out for OneNote. A damn fine switch for most purposes.
The new Product Key Card option is specifically described as "a single license card that lets you unlock Office 2010 software preloaded on new PCs from major PC manufacturers."
The boxed copies of Office Home and Business 2010 and Office Professional 2010 actually allow for TWO installations, so the cheaper digital key is actually more expensive if you need to be using more than one copy.
Don't be confused into thinking the digital key is effectively a 'digital distro' option, either. You can buy the 'boxed' version as a download, but still pay the full price. From what we can see, this product key version is very much focused on preload deals with hardware partners. It's a fine deal for what it is — just understand that it is exactly what it is. Remember to be careful with all system restore discs for the computer it is preloaded on, and don't expect to be able to transfer the license to another system should you upgrade and want to take your software with you.
We've asked Microsoft PR for a confirmation on whether this key is locked down tight. Maybe we're wrong and this is essentially a 'single user' license versus the 'two install' license given to boxed copy buyers. We'll update when we get official word.