Microsoft Launches Office 365 to Make Office a Service, Not a Product

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If there is one sole remaining dominant part of Microsoft’s business it’s Office. Love it or hate it, Office apps and file formats are the lowest common denominator for sharing documents. But Office is under siege and Microsoft knows it. The Cloud (read Google Docs) is taking over and Microsoft needs to change. The response is to offer Office in a new way, at an “affordable” price as a service that service is Office 365. Launched today for Macs, PCs, and the cloud it makes Office look affordable, but is it?

For a yearly fee (the Home Premium version is $99) you get access to the cloud and latest desktop versions of Office for up to five devices. So, you can have a home desktop PC, a MacBook, Surface tablet, and a couple other devices running the same version of Office with an extra 20 GB of Skydrive storage. There is also a student plan for $80 that’s good for four years. Both plans are paid up front, but you can see the appeal. Wow, $100 and we get five copies of Office! Since the cheapest Home and Student is more than that and is only good for one computer, this is a good deal.

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Not to mention access to the online version, plus (one would assume) iOS versions when (if) they come out plus Surface Tablet versions… I didn’t see how much it would cost to add more devices (if you have say 7 instead of 5), but I’m sure Microsoft will have a way to handle that. A great deal for a family.

Or is it?

Microsoft is very clever here. With the student version you’ve got a kid hooked for the four years they are in school, no problem. When they are done with school and move into the workforce they are all set to use Office there. Cool. The home version, though, might be the most clever of all.

So you pay $100 today, good for a year. You get Office updates (you would regardless if you bought the box) and you save money if you have several computers. What about next year? I haven’t found the answer in my research yet, but I’d gather you would need to resubscribe or your Office apps would stop working (maybe you could open and print, but…).

Clever. Instead of someone like me who bought Office 2008 years ago (for less than $100) and hasn’t upgraded (and I have little intention of doing so unless I absolutely must), you get $100 a year from a family (because face it, how many North American families don’t have more than one device to install Office on) for…a very long time.

By my rough reckoning, yes Office 365 Student is a killer deal. Office 365 Home Premium is an awesome deal. You get all the apps (all, not just the limited set you get when you buy Home and Student in the box) for several devices for a decent price. So while you’ll probably wind up paying $100 a year to keep that going, it will be several years before you hit the cost of buying Office for all your devices at home.

Here are all the features you get:

  • The latest and most complete set of Office applications: Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, Outlook, Publisher and Access
  • One license for the entire household to use Office on up to five devices, including Windows tablets, PCs or Macs, and Office on Demand available from any Internet-connected PC
  • An additional 20 GB of SkyDrive cloud storage, nearly three times the amount available with a free SkyDrive account
  • 60 free Skype world calling minutes per month to call mobile phones, landlines or PCs around the world
  • Future upgrades, so you always use the latest time-saving technology

If you’re wondering about Office versions, PC users will get Office 2013 (brand new) and Mac users get 2011. Given how the Office 365 subscription works, if Mac Office 2014 comes out while you’re still subscribed, you’d get that automatically.

Unless of course you want to just skip it all and use Google Docs for free…

Update:

Found though ZDNet what happens if you let your subscription expire:

Once the subscription expires, the Office apps will enter a “read-only reduced functionality mode.” This means users will be able to view or print documents, but won’t be able to create any new documents or edit existing documents.

Users who want to regain their full Office capabilities will be able to purchase a new subscription (via Office.com) or a set of predesignated retailers. Users also will have the choice of simply using older, existing versions of Office or to just use the free Office Web Apps on SkyDrive for basic editing.

If a user has stored documents created/edited with Office 365 Home Premium in their SkyDrives, these documents will still be downloadable once subscriptions expire. Users can save SkyDrive documents to another computer or drive at any time, according to Microsoft. (With Office 365 Home Premium, users get an additional 20 GB of storage on top of their existing SkyDrive quotas.)

Makes sense. You can still open and print the documents. So if you don’t need Office 365 after a year, you could still switch to Google Docs with Google Drive and muddle along (or any of the other free alternatives like OpenOffice or LibreOffice).

Via: TNW and Microsoft

  • Drusenija

    “you get $100 a year from a family [...] for…a very long time.”

    Isn’t that the whole point of a subscription model vs a purchasing one? You never actually own the software, but you also never have to update it or maintain it, and you’ll always have the latest version (whether that’s a good thing is debatable of course), and in this instance, you’ll have all those benefits on 5 different devices. In return for those benefits, you pay a reduced fee, but you pay it on an ongoing basis.

    That being said, owning Office is probably cheaper for most people in the long run if they can pony up the cash (or they have access to the Home Use Program at work which makes Office ridiculously cheap) if you don’t need the cloud-y features that 365 offers.

  • Kraken

    For most families OpenOffice or LibreOffice is probably good enough, and you don’t have the ribbon, including its new ALL CAPS look.