Microsoft Office got an upgrade in January — Office 2013. To say that Microsoft has its “head in the clouds” is an understatement. The new cloud-connected, cloud-delivered, cloud-centric Office is a testament to Microsoft’s dedication to moving to the cloud. Available right now, Microsoft Office 365 Home Premium is all about the cloud. This new Office is a subscription-based service, available to home users for $9.99/month or $99.00/year. In addition to Word, Excel, and PowerPoint, the subscription gives users access to Outlook, OneNote, Publisher, and Access. Microsoft throws in free with the subscription an extra 20GB of cloud storage on their SkyDrive service and 60 Skype world minutes a month. Because the Home Premium subscription is a site license, you can install office on up to 5 PCs or Macs.
What makes this new version of Office so “in the cloud?” All of the documents you create default to being stored on your SkyDrive in the cloud. The latest updates to the applications, which are expected to roll out several times a year now, are available for subscribers to install as soon as they are released, so you always have the latest version. Not using one of the 5 computers covered by the subscription? Don’t worry! All of the Microsoft Office apps can be “streamed” to the computer you are using, and when you are done automatically removed, leaving almost no trace of their ever being on the system. You can also choose to use more fully-featured Office web apps directly in your browser. There are a lot of features missing from the web apps; however, new features are being added and updated all the time, allowing you to work fully in the cloud.
Also available is a subscription for college and university students, faculty, and staff. The subscription is only $79.99 for 4 years of use and allows you to install the applications on 2 PCs or Macs. Besides these 2 differences, the University subscription has the same features as the Home Premium subscription.
Students and home users are not the only ones to get a new Office subscription service. On February 27, the Office Small Business Premium subscription will be made available. This subscription gives users access to several apps and services not available to the home and educational users. Small Business Premium adds Microsoft Lync and InfoPath, as well as video conferencing, online document sharing, shared calendars, 25GB of email storage, 10GB of shared document storage, and 500MB of personal storage per user. The Small Business Premium Subscription also differs from the Home and University subscriptions in that it is a per user subscription, so for each user in your business it will cost either $12.50 per month or $149.99 annually per user.
Not interested in jumping on one of Microsoft’s new subscriptions? Microsoft has also released perpetual license versions of their Office suites and individual applications. These perpetual licenses are what we are used to seeing and buying preinstalled on our computers; however, they do not benefit from many of the extra cloud features or services associated with the new subscriptions. My guess is that over a relatively short period of time, Microsoft will begin retiring these perpetual licenses and in a few years the only choice will be one of their cloud subscriptions for Office. Personally, I think this is the way to go though I do look to Microsoft to reduce the cost of the Home Premium subscription just a little more before it becomes as attractive to home users as this model is to large corporations.