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Microsoft's Office 2010 has hit retail stores with consumers being hailed as the suite's savior.

The latest edition of Microsoft's suite hit high-street retailers and online merchants Tuesday in three flavors for the general public. Office 2010 is available or the first time as download with activation via a key card in addition to the standard boxed product.

Office 2010 Home and Student has a recommended US retail price of $149.99 or $119.99 for the key-card, Home and Business is $279.99/$199.99, and Professional is priced at $499.99/$349.99.

Those prices are translating in the UK as £79.99/£69.99 for Home and Student, £155/£135 for Home and Business, and £289/£205 for Office Professional.

Home and Student users don't get Microsoft's Outlook email client - that kicks in for Home and Business users, while Professional also adds Access and Publisher. You can see full details of the suite, and download, from here.

A product activation key is not the only new twist to the Office 2010 line-up, as Microsoft has introduced a free online version called Office Web Apps - the company's answer to Google's Docs.

Microsoft and analyst Forrester hopes people will continue to spring for the paid product even though Office Web Apps offers the bread-and-butter features that most people want - and that usually help ensure customers stick with their existing copies of Office rather than upgrade.

Office Web Apps lets you create, edit and share documents in the 2010 versions of Word, PowerPoint, OneNote and Excel. Indeed, Microsoft's provided additional incentive for not paying by making the free version available on a wider range of devices: Office Web Apps can be used on the Mac and phone in addition to regular PCs via Internet Explorer, Safari and Firefox.

Microsoft could certainly use an influx of money from paid Office 2010 upgrades: revenue for the company's Business Division, which is home to Office, has grown just seven per cent for the first nine months of its current fiscal year. The Business Division is one of Microsoft's core revenue engines, along with Windows Client and Server and Tools, and the combined year-to-date revenue for all three is $2bn behind where it was in 2009. ®

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