Save money on Office 2010 by first upgrading to 2007

Small businesses and home users may find that the least expensive route from Office 2003 to 2010 is upgrading to 2007

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If you buy Home and Business 2010 in a box, you get one license, plus you "may install another copy of the software on a portable device for use by the single primary user of the licensed device," according to Microsoft. If you buy a key card, you only get one license.

The cheapest way to get two licenses -- assuming you meet the "portable device" restriction and already have Office 2003 -- involves buying the upgrade version of Office 2007 Standard. I found it at Amazon for $205, which saves you $75 off the $280 going rate for H&B 2010. (Make sure you follow Amazon's instructions closely.) Frys has a similar offer for $210, but it's only available in some Frys shops -- not online.

If you want only one license for H&B 2010, you might as well get the H&B 2010 Key Card for about $200.

If you buy Office Professional 2010 in a box, you get one license, plus one for "a portable device," just like Home and Office. If you buy a key card, you get only one license.

Here, the cheapest route to Office 2010 depends on which version of Office 2003 you already own. If you have Office 2003 Ultimate, you can upgrade to Office 2007 Ultimate with a $215 package from Amazon, and from there to Office Pro 2010 for free.

Otherwise, get the Office 2007 Small Business Edition retail upgrade package from Frys for $280 -- quite a savings from the $499 Professional 2010, and even a small savings from the one-license Key Card at $349.

Home users may consider buying Office Home and Student 2010, which comes with Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote. The package includes three licenses for three PCs in a single household. (You're explicitly prohibited from using H&S "in any commercial, nonprofit or revenue-generating activities, or by any government organization.") If you buy a key card for H&S 2010, instead of the box, you get only one license.

Right now the going rate on the three-license version of H&S 2010 is about $150. If you have Office 2003, you can save $50 by ordering Office Home & Student 2007 from Amazon for $99, then taking advantage of the Technology Guarantee for a free upgrade to H&S 2010.

If you want only one license for H&S 2010, you're better off buying the H&S 2010 Key Card, which lists at around $119. Yes, you can get the Amazon H&S 2007 version and upgrade, but you'll save only $20.

It's entirely possible that Microsoft will offer some sort of special deal after the shrink-wrapped copies of Office 2010 hit store shelves. Frankly, I don't see any show-stopper new features; if sales stumble, there's no telling what Microsoft might do to make the product more appealing. But as things stand, in many cases, you're better off upgrading to Office 2007, if only for a day.

Found a better price? Tell me about it in the comments below.

This article, "Save money on Office 2010 by first upgrading to 2007," was originally published at Get the first word on what the important tech news really means with the InfoWorld Tech Watch blog.

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