The installer asked for that serial number, which I carefully cut and pasted from the email. Within a few minutes, the office icons are in the dock, and the updater was asking if I wanted to grab the latest patches.
All good so far.
Then I launch Word, and it asks again for my serial number. Again, I copy and paste it into the dialog, expecting that, for whatever reason, I'll have to do this for Excel and PowerPoint, too. Except that the serial number isn't accepted. I try again. Again, failure. Exasperated, I opt for the clean uninstall option using the 'Remove Office' application installed as part of the suite. It doesn't work: 'Remove Office' spends literally hours searching for versions of office to remove, and when I eventually cancel, it tells me that it couldn't find any. What, not even in the bog-standard '/Applications/Microsoft Office 2008' folder? Why would it ever have looked there?
So I manually uninstall it, removing all of the fragments that the damn procedure scattered throughout
/Library. Reinstalling yields exactly the same procedure.
The first contact with customer support yields a different download link, and them re-sending me the original key. But the file from the alternate link is identical to the original. So, with the same key and the same file, what happens? That's right: another key validation failure.
So now it's back to customer support, this time providing them with a hardware signature, presumably so that they can generate a new key that's completely locked down to my laptop.
This whole experience has left me wondering why I spent any money on the product at all. The automatic assumption of "it's a copy!" has further damaged my already tarnished opinion of Microsoft as a company, and the textbook incompetence of their first-contact customer support is a frustrating waste of my time.
Really, I wouldn't (and haven't) had this problem with OpenOffice, which has the added bonus of being absolutely free. The only reason I want Office is just so that I can open documents sent to me without losing content, and also to produce Word files that I know will open properly for those ridiculous agencies that accept it as their only CV format.
Edit: 3rd December, 2009
Eventually, I got an obscenely long product activation code from Microsoft. It didn't work. The 'Remove Office' utility still doesn't work, so I'm left tossing shattered fragments of this sorry excuse for an office suite into the trash whenever I find them. Definitely falls into the 'worse than useless' category.