Some sellers have raised the price of Office 2010's lowest-cost multi-license package after Microsoft discontinued retail sales of the suite.
Giant online retailer Amazon.com, for example, now lists what Microsoft called the "Full Packaged Product" (FFP) of Office Home & Student 2010 at $170, $20 higher than the former list price, representing a 13% surcharge.
Another seller on the site pegged Home & Student 2010 at $250, or 67% above list.
But Amazon also sells Office Home & Business 2010 for $278 and Office Professional for $400, or 1% and 20% under list, respectively.
Before Microsoft discontinued Office 2010, the FFPs of Home & Student listed for $150, Home & Business for $280 and Professional for $500.
Not every vendor has followed Amazon's example. CDW, for instance, charges $140 for Home & Student 2010, a 7% discount, $248 for Home & Business 2010 (11% off list) and $489 for Professional 2010 (2% below list price).
Those Office 2010 FFP SKUs (stock keeping units) remain interesting to some buyers because they come with rights to install the suite on multiple Windows PCs. The FFP of Home & Student, for example, can be installed on up to three systems in a household, while Home & Business and Professional allow up to two installations on a user's PCs, a desktop and a notebook, for example.
That's different than Office 2013, which Microsoft launched in late January. All three of the comparable retail SKUs of Office 2013 allow only one installation each.
Microsoft dropped multi-license packs to make the "perpetual" licenses -- the traditional kind that are paid for once and can be used as long as the customer wants -- of Office 2013 less attractive when compared to the new Office 365 software-by-subscription plans the company is aggressively marketing.
To replicate the three licenses of Home & Student 2010, potential purchasers of Office 2013 would have to spend $420 on three separate copies of Home & Student 2013, or subscribe to Office 365 Home Premium, a $100 per year plan that lets customers run the suite only as long as they continue to make annual payments.
Equipping two PCs with Home & Business 2013 would cost $440, and two copies of Professional 2013 would run the buyer $800. Alternately, businesses can subscribe to Office 365 plans that start at $150 per year per user, and climb as high as $240 per user per year.
Microsoft no longer sells Office 2010 on its own online market. A sales representative there confirmed that the suite has been discontinued. Third-party retailers, however, are continuing to sell from their in-hand stock.
While Microsoft spells out what it calls "end of sales" policies for Windows -- where it stops retail sales a year after the release of a newer edition, and tells computer makers to stop pre-installing the older version another year later -- it does not do the same for Office.
Microsoft did not respond to questions about whether such policies exist, and if they do, what they are.
But in an online forum earlier this year, one commenter said he had received notice from one of his software distributors that Microsoft was calling EOL (end of life) for Office 2010 on Jan. 31, 2013. "This means Microsoft will no longer be producing it for resale," said the user, Parrish Reinoehl, a co-owner of a Michigan computer store that builds new systems and provides IT services. "Distributors will continue to sell Office 2010 but as soon as their inventory runs out that will be the end of it."
In his forum post, Reinoehl quoted the message he'd received from the distributor: " 'X-Distributor' will be allowed to sell existing inventory until its supply has been depleted."
If Reinoehl's information was accurate, Microsoft stopped selling Office 2010 to distributors just days after the launch of Office 2013. And its termination came sooner than in previous cycles: Microsoft stopped selling Office 2007 six months after its successor -- Office 2010 -- reached retail.
Also of note is an impending deadline of Microsoft's upgrade program that provides a free copy of Office 2013 to retail buyers of Office 2010. That deal, which ends in six weeks, lets customers upgrade one of the machines currently running Office 2010 -- assuming the latter was installed from a multi-license FFP package -- to the comparable version of Office 2013 if Office 2010 was purchased between Oct. 19, 2012 and April 30, 2013. The EOL of Office 2010 affects only the retail SKUs. Enterprises with volume licensing agreements can continue to install and use Office 2010 by tapping the downgrade rights built into the volume SKUs of Office 2013.
Gregg Keizer covers Microsoft, security issues, Apple, Web browsers and general technology breaking news for Computerworld. Follow Gregg on Twitter at @gkeizer, on Google+ or subscribe to Gregg's RSS feed. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
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