Over the last couple of years, Microsoft has been shipping a cutdown, ad-supported version of Microsoft Office. Dubbed "Starter Edition" this was very much a bare essentials version of Office with just Word and Excel. If you purchased a netbook, chances are that you found Starter Edition pre-installed.
However, with the coming release of Office 2013, the Starter Edition will be shown the door. As reported by Mary Jo Foley
, Microsoft is beginning to phase out the distribution of the free Office Starter 2010 with new PCs. The Microsoft site
states that people using Office Starter 2010 with Windows 7 and who upgrade to Windows 8 will not have compatiblity issues if they install a patch
For small businesses, that means you'll need to pony up a few extra bucks for a more feature complete and ad-free version of Office. All of a sudden, the $300 cheapie netbook has had a some extra money added to the price.
However, if your needs are simple and you can handle being a little different, there are dozens of free options when it comes to productivity software, including:
These are just three of many free options available from the open source world when it comes to office software. Not all of these are perfect. Our review of LibreOffice
, for example, points out that while the version we tested was perfectly usable, we still encountered some little irritations and one software crash.
For small businesses, there are lots of ways to cut down on your software bill if you're happy to take the path slightly less travelled with open source software.