Recently I got a new work laptop with Windows 7 and Microsoft Office Professional 2010 installed. Along with the laptop I got a Product Key Card for MS Office Professional 2010 to activate the license.
I am old enough to remember the days MS Office was sold in larger boxes on CDs and DVDs. What happened? I slid out the plastic inner case and opened it to find a card with the product key printed on it. I entered this into the setup screen on my new laptop and MS Office (already pre-installed) was activated right away.
Then I noticed that inside the cover of the slightly slimmer box, Microsoft has taken liberty to print some waffle about the environment – perhaps to infer this is the reason for no longer supplying a disc and using less packaging.
“Of course! What a great idea to reduce packaging! What’s your problem?” I hear you cry.
Well, simply this… why have such bulky unecessary packaging at all? One product key, 25 numbers – and this requires a pamphlet size card inside a plastic box, inside a cardboard box?! Surely, if they were concerned about the environment they could just ship these keys on credit cards? They’d also save a fortune in shipping fees. In fact, why bother shipping credit cards at all – why not just have customers log into your website, make a payment and download the software direct?
Microsoft Office Professional Edition 2010 costs ~$300, that’s ~£300 when you convert the dollar amount (US products are on a 1:1 currency conversion with the UK – think I’m joking – google it).
OpenOffice.org, or it’s successor LibreOffice, on the other hand is free. You just go to the website and download it for free. So are a number of other office productivity suites such as Lotus Symphony and Google Docs.
Imagine if you could simply log into an app store and download Office and had to pay a whopping £300 for it? Maybe some would pay, many would pirate as they do now, and maybe some would go to one of the free alternatives. After a while, the free alternatives would probably become a lot more attractive and popular.
But this is not the case with MS Office, or rather it is the case because when you pay £300 for MS Office, you get a case. Not a credit card, not a piece of paper with 25 numbers on it, not web access to download an app – a case. It’s a pretty case too, it looks nice and expensive. It reminds you how expensive it is with the aid of some nice graphics on the back. It makes you feel like you actually bought and own something – not that you downloaded it – even though you did (unless they were nice enough to pre-install).
How much do you think Microsoft Office, the app suite, is really worth? £150? £100? £50?… £20? Subtract that from £300 and you have the price you paid to own a pretty box.
And if you think I’m talking rubbish, just consider you’d pay upwards of £15 for CD with just 10 songs (only 2 of which you liked) only 10 years ago. Ditching CD boxes, separating tracks and online distribution changed all this.