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Microsoft Office goes subscription-based, but do you need it?

So Microsoft has announced Office 365 for 2013. Note that they ARE NOT getting rid off Office 2013 – more on that in a bit.

Office 365 comes in three flavors: Home Premium, Small Business Premium, and University (or Academic). I’m going to skip over Small Business Premium, because it has tiers within it, and can get a little complicated. For the most part, I think our readers will be mostly personal users, so I’ll just touch on Home Premium and University.

The buy-it-and-forget-it flavor of Office comes with Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, and Outlook. This is what we’ve been used to for some time. If you wanted anything else (let’s say Access), you’ve had to shell out for it separately. And you still do.  But with Office 365 Home Premium or University, you’ll get Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, Outlook, AND Access, AND Publisher. (Okay, honesty, I have never seen or used Publisher, and don’t even know what it really does and what it’s capable of. I used Adobe Pagemaker for years in the 90s, and even its successor Indesign a few times. It looks to me like Publisher wants to be Indesign and Photoshop, but is nowhere near the mark.) So first point goes to 365 for offering more.

Office 365 is rented on a subscription model. For Home Premium, you’ll pay $99.99/year or $9.99/month. University will run you $79.99 for a 4-year subscription (!) and you’ll have to jump through the verification hoops. It is open to full-time and part-time students, and faculty and staff of “eligible accredited educational institutions geographically located in the United States.” In addition to the 7 applications that you can download on use, you’ll also get access to Office on Demand, which streams Office applications to your Windows 7-or-higher based PC, that you can use anywhere. Note that Office on Demand is NOT Office Web Apps, which can be used from non-Win7 or 8 platforms (Mac OS, Linux).

In addition to the applications, you’ll get 60 Skype world minutes PER MONTH (Gizmodo reported per year, so don’t listen to them…). You’ll also get “additional 20 GB” of SkyDrive storage. Note the word “additional.” That is a very important word for me. Right now, I’ve got 25 GB of SkyDrive storage. If they are wording this correctly, if I purchase an Office 365 subscription, I’m going to up that to 45 GB. That will probably be more than I’d currently use, as I don’t really trust putting stuff “in the cloud” completely yet. BUT, it might get me to start uploading more pictures from my Windows Phone (just not ones with people identified in them), say for sharing on Twitter. (Edit: Aha! I found exactly that verbage, so yes, the 20 GB for 365 Home Premium or University IS IN ADDITION to whatever you have at sign-up.)

Backtracking to the buy-it-and-forget-it types, there are 2 we will look at (again, forgoing anything remotely Enterprise): Office Home & Student 2013 and Office Home & Business 2013.  Home & Student comes with Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote, and will run you $139.99.  Home & Business comes with Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, and Outlook, and will run you $219.99.

Both flavors of Office 2013 can only be installed (officially) on one PC, for one person. Office 365 University says at the top of their product page that it can be installed on up to 2 PCs or Macs; but at the bottom in the FAQs, it says up to 2 PCs or Macs and up to two smartphones or tablets. This is for use of one person. Office 365 Home Premium can be installed on up to FIVE devices, and they don’t even have to be “yours” so to speak. You an log onto your significant other’s/child’s PC, laptop, netbook, or tablet, download it under your Live ID, then add them, and boom, you’re good to go.

So should you purchase Office 2013, or subscribe to Office 2013? If you are running Windows, but aren’t running Windows 7 or Windows 8 (for example, my husband’s Vista machine), fuggetaboutit. If you are running OS X lower than 10.5.8, you’re also sorta outta luck.  Curse your machine and move on.  If you’re running OS X 10.5.8 or better, you’re stuck with Office 365. And you only get Word, Excel, and PowerPoint. Read on.  If you’re running Windows 7 or 8, congratulations – you have more choices.

Office 2013 is for a single person who buys an Office suite and keeps it for multiple versions.  Who might be interested in Office 365 are families or people who want to be automatically upgraded to new versions.  Yes, you read that right: your subscription will keep you updated through successive versions. So if you like to keep up-to-date, ask yourself this: do you think that Microsoft will come out with new versions every 2 years?  (So far, it’s been roughly 2 or 3, right? 2000, 2003, 2007, 2010, 2013). If you think so, and you think that having Outlook, Access, and Publisher are worth the extra $60, or you have multiple devices you’d like to put them on, Office 365 Home Premium just might be for you. If you’re a student, faculty, or staff at at US college or university, WHY ARE YOU EVEN HESITATING? $80 for 4 years for Office 365 University? That is a no-brainer.

So there you have it: PC, Mac, single-license, multi-license subscription. What’s your Office?

Source: MS Office home