PC vendors can offer two-month Office 2007 trials

Microsoft will allow partners to offer trials of Office 2007 on PCs.

Microsoft has introduced a new program that gives system builders and original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) more opportunities to sell licenses for its forthcoming Office 2007 suite to small business.

The new Office Ready program would let PC vendors preinstall several versions of Office 2007 for customers to use on a trial basis, senior SMB director for the Office product group, Rachel Bondi, said.

The Office 2007 versions covered under the new program are Office Basic, Office Small Business and Office Professional.

Microsoft unveiled the program at its Worldwide Partner Conference in Boston.

Previously, if a customer wanted to purchase Office preinstalled on a PC from a system builder or an OEM, they would have to purchase a license for the software. Some customers would accept that, but others, particularly smaller businesses, would opt to purchase Office later from a retailer because the upfront expense was beyond their budgets, Bondi said.

"The experience from a customer perspective was, if they didn't buy and install Office up front, within 60 days they [bought] the license somewhere else," she said. "System builders would lose the opportunity to sell."

Now, OEMs and system builders can offer the two-month trial when they sell a PC, and after that time a customer can purchase the license for the software, Bondi said.

If customers decided not to purchase the license after the trial period is over, they could still save and edit the documents they created in Office during the trial period, but not create new documents, she said.

The release date for Office 2007 is in flux. Microsoft originally said it would be available to both business and retail customers in the second half of 2006, but the company changed that plan in March and delayed the retail release until January 2007. Business customers were expected to get Office 2007 by October.

That plan changed again in late June, when Microsoft said it would delay the release of Office 2007 to business customers until the end of the year, and the retail release a few months later than the January target. The company said the reasoning behind the delay was so it could incorporate feedback from 2.5 million testers currently looking at the second beta version.

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