January 30, 2013

Is Cloud-Based Office Worth The Price?

Yesterday, Microsoft announced the release of its Office 365 Home Premium version, the latest reinvention of the company’s flagship Office product line for consumers. What makes this new version so different from past versions is it will be available for users for $99.99, but only for 365 days, at which point, users will need to renew for another year.

This is a bold move for Microsoft, which is no doubt looking to create a more steady revenue stream. For one thing, Microsoft has already had to face consumers keeping computers longer, and in turn, that means those users are keeping the software longer – and not just the Windows operating system, but all programs including Office.

But this is also clearly a move to embrace the cloud. For the $100 a year, Microsoft is offering access to the software on up to five devices including Windows tablets, PCs and even Macs. But Microsoft is also throwing in 20GB of SkyDrive cloud storage, which is almost three times the amount available to those with a free SkyDrive account. Additionally, users will further get 60 free Skype world calling minutes per month.

This latest edition of Office includes Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, Outlook, Publisher and Access. And access could be the key to this. Not only is the service available to five machines, but users can access their content in the cloud via a website with Office on Demand from any Internet-connected PC, even if this suite isn’t installed on a particular computer.

All this makes the deal sound pretty good. And it comes down to just $8.34 per month. But does this deal sound too good?

Consider that Office Home and Student 2013 for one PC will cost $139.99 per year. For those with multiple computers this could add up fast, unless you plan to keep that computer for a while. If you don’t need the extra SkyDrive space or simply don’t need the cloud access, then even buying two licenses will be cheaper after two years. As for Skype calls, are still free when made Skype-to-Skype, which remains the way most people use the service anyway!

Where the Office 365 version has added benefit is in that it offers constant updates and this means in three or four years, when Microsoft rolls out the next version, it will be updated automatically – whether you like it or not – whereas Office Home and Student 2013 users will have to fully upgrade.

Of course on the flip side, consider that many people are probably still using Office 2007 or even Office 2003 and thus, haven’t seen the need to upgrade in a long time. That fact is likely why Microsoft is offering up this latest deal now with Office 365. But it comes down to how many machines you have and where you need to use it.

The cloud is great should you have constant or near constant access and the Office on Demand functionality sounds great. But Google already offers similar offerings.

The best option might be for students however, as Office 365 University is available for $79.99 for four years for two PCs/Macs. It also offers the same features as Office 365 Home Premium, including SkyDrive and Skype minutes. Almost sounds good enough to sign up for a refresher writing class to get in on that deal!

Image Credit: Photos.com

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Peter Suciu is a freelance writer and has covered consumer electronics, technology, electronic entertainment and the fitness sports industry for more than 15 years. In that time his work has appeared in more than three dozen publications including Newsweek, PC Magazine and Wired. His work has also appeared on Forbes.com, Inc.com, Cnet.com, and Fortune.com. Peter is a regular writer for redOrbit.com.

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