I received an email this morning announcing the availability of the retail versions of Microsoft Office 2010. So, while many IT professionals have been working with Office 2010 for some time now, this is the first chance many small business and/or consumers have had to get their hands on the productivity suite.

The email offered a link to a suite comparison chart which details the differences between the retail packages, including what modules come with each and how much each version costs. The one thing I noticed right away was the suggested retail price for the versions. In general, the prices seem on the expensive side, especially when there are so many competitive alternative choices these days.

Heck, even Microsoft offers the cloud-computing based Office Live.

So, this begs the question: Does the retail release of Microsoft Office 2010 really matter? With so many less expensive alternatives, will small businesses, students, and consumers buy Office 2010? Does the availability of viable alternatives make Office 2010 a luxury item that can be forgone?

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