Microsoft has added a first-time “Home Edition” of the Office 365 Web service which, along with the business version of the software, is available by subscription and offers bonuses like free online storage and Skype calling.
In addition to the traditional single-device, perpetual license, the new Office suite will be offered in a multi-device cloud package for $99.99 per household, while the small-business version, called Office 365 Small Business Premium, will run $149.99 per employee per year.
The licensed versions, called Office Home & Student 2013, Office Home & Business 2013 and Office Professional 2013, will cost $139.99, $219.99 and $399.99, respectively.
Office 365 Home Premium includes downloadable iterations of seven apps: Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, OneNote, Access, and Publisher. One license gives the buyer the right to install the suite on up to five Windows 7, Windows 8 or Mac OS computers. In the buyer’s household, multiple people can use the suite, each with his or her own account. Settings, preferences and documents can be synchronized via the cloud among the different devices included in the subscription. A feature called Office on Demand lets users stream the suite to a device not included in the subscription for one-time editing purposes, such as when users are traveling and using a hotel PC.
In a way, it will support more than five devices, because it will also fold in Office Web Apps which are limited, browser-based versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote. So if you’re working on a remote PC somewhere, and you don’t want it to count as one of your five devices, you can use Web Apps instead.
To sweeten the deal for Office 365 Home Premium even more, Microsoft is also throwing in a few bonuses, such as an additional 20 GB of SkyDrive online storage space (worth $40 per year otherwise) and 60 free minutes a month of Skype international calling (valued at $119.52 a year).
Office 365 Small Business Premium works in the same way, except that licenses are per employee at a cost of $12.50 per month. Businesses can have licenses for up to 25 employees. Each employee can install the software on up to five Windows 7, Windows 8 or Mac OS computers.
Of course, Microsoft is hardly the only one doing a cloud-enabled office suite. The basic version of Google Docs is free to all, and Google also offers a premium option for businesses and power users who want a little extra. However, Google doesn’t offer a full suite of desktop apps like Microsoft does being entirely browser based.
With Google Docs, if you don’t have Internet access, you don’t have your software. Office 365 bypasses this issue by installing the apps on your PC, to give you some offline capability. Adobe’s Creative Suite software rentals also download to the desktop.
Decisions, decsisions. The market gets to decide which purchase model best meets their needs — paying once for the suite and using it for years on one device (not counting the incremental expense of regular upgrades), or paying an annual fee that lets them access the suite in multiple devices with an always current version.
For a while anyway, you can have it both ways. Microsoft also announced that starting Oct. 19, buyers of Office 2010 or Office for Mac 2011 will be able to sign up free for a one-year subscription of Office 365 Home Premium or the equivalent Office 2013 offering. Small-business owners will get a three-month trial of Office 365 Small Business Premium. [24×7]