Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Microsoft Office 365 released; subscription version attractive, compelling

Microsoft released Office 365, the latest version of one of its cash cows, on Tuesday. Following in the footsteps of antivirus vendors, who have gone this way for a long time, Office 365 is available as a subscription service, but in addition, it can still be purchased as a standalone package.

Office 365 Home Premium is the "Microsoft recommended" version of Office. It is priced at $99.99 annually (or $9.99 a month), though of course there's no guarantee that Microsoft won't raise that price in the future. A single subscription covers five PCs, Macs or Windows tablets, and comes with with Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, OneNote, Publisher, Access, 20 GB of SkyDrive storage, 60 global minutes per month on Skype, as well as the ability to stream full versions of Office applications to any Internet-connected PC running Windows 7 or Windows 8 using Office on Demand.

For PCs, Office 365 Home Premium includes Office 2013. Mac users will have to be satisfied with Office 2011; Office 2013 for the Mac won't ship for another 12 to 18 months.

Student and faculty can buy Office 365 University, which is $79.99 for four years. It offers the same features as Office 365 Home Premium, including the Skype minutes and SkyDrive storage. While far cheaper, it only covers two PCs, Macs or Windows tablets.

Microsoft still offers versions for those who want to buy their own software, and own it rather than subscribing to it. All of these cover one PC only, though, making the subscription service more attractive to most.

Office Home and Student 2013, $139.99. It comes with Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote, but offers none of the Office 365 extras.

Office Home and Business 2013, $219.99.: The business license single-computer edition offers the same features as Home and Student 2013, but adds Outlook (think of it as $80 for Outlook). It offers none of the Office 365 extras.

Office Professional 2013, $399.99.The higher-tiered business license single-computer edition offers the same features as Home and Business 2013, but adds Access and Publisher. Once again, no office 365 extras.

It's clear from all this that Microsoft has made its subscription offerings compelling and its standalone software there for those who simply must have that type of software, but definitely unattractive.

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