Microsoft's Office Trial conversion program is so successful, the company now clearly competes with its retail and dealer partners. The signs were there in February, when we said the Office Trial program "could" cause channel conflict. There's no more "could" about it. Microsoft now has 9 percent dollar share for the U.S. retail productivity suite market, according to NPD. Chris Swenson, NPD's director of software industry analysis, largely attributed Microsoft's market share gains to Office Trial conversions.
Microsoft offers the trials through a number of venues, including direct from the Web or on new PCs. Microsoft also directly fulfills Office conversions. Users can purchase activation codes directly from Microsoft via the Web. Microsoft has historically avoided selling against its channel. The company has no direct sales force and is hugely dependent on resellers, retailers and solution providers to hawk products like Office or Windows. But the Office Trials and newer programs like Windows Anytime Upgrade put Microsoft in competition with retail partners.