Microsoft has for the first time allowed selected partners to sell its flagship software products as downloads. The move sees Microsoft selling Windows 7, Microsoft Office 2010 and other flagship titles via ESD (Electronic Software Delivery) at online stores including the PC Advisor Software Shop.

ESD is the practice of delivering software without the use of physical media, typically by downloading via the internet. Digital distribution bypasses conventional physical distribution media, such as paper or DVDs, reducing costs and waste. As broadband connections have become more widespread software downloads have become an increasingly popular method of purchasing programs.

Traditionally Microsoft has sold the majority of its operating system software via OEM (original equipment manufacturer) deals. Manufacturers would buy Windows licences from Microsoft and pass the cost of the OS on to customers when they buy desktop PCs and laptops. Similarly, Office licences have typically been sold in large chunks to enterprises.

As digital media has become more capacious, Microsoft has targetted consumers with software DVDs sold from high street stores, with download purchases available only direct from Microsoft. Thus the decision to allow selected third-party vendors is a significant move by Microsoft.

PC Advisor has available for download a range of Microsoft products including upgrades and full versions of all flavours of Windows 7 and Microsoft Office 2010. This is the first time that Microsoft has allowed third parties to sell downloads of its products in the UK, and follows a matter of weeks after the company first trialed ESD in France and Germany.