One of Microsoft’s latest marketing pushes has been trying to encourage more people to switch from the traditional single license sales model for Office products to a subscription with Office 365. They make a fair case, but it is still not going to be for everybody. In the interest of helping people make the best decisions possible, these appear to be the biggest differences between the Office you’re likely familiar with and the subscription service.
Office 365 vs Office 2013 Price
The simple answer that will apply to many people is that Office 365 requires less of an initial investment but will cost you more in the long term. The $9.99 each month will obviously add up to a fair amount in time and even the $99.99 annual subscription would cost you more than the basic pay-once package going for $139 long before you stopped needing the software. That doesn’t tell the whole story, though.
The license terms on Office 2013 sales are somewhat more restricted than was previously the case. You can only use each one on a single computer at a time. That means that anybody who wants the full package on both their home PCs and their portable device will have some trouble saving anything by avoiding the subscription fees. Office 365 allows for five activated devices at a time.
Assuming an update every three years and an interest in keeping up with the most recent releases we can draw a fairly clear recommendation chart. This doesn’t take into account the wider feature selection offered by Office 365, but we’re working on the idea that price is the deciding factor for the moment. Obviously you’ll get more mileage out of the single license if you hold onto it for 10 years, but that’s increasingly difficult to do.
While it might be argued that one or even two PCs would still result in savings from avoiding the subscription service, that advantage goes away with anything beyond the second installation. If you are somebody who needs the full features of Microsoft Office and can’t reasonably substitute one of the reasonable knockoffs floating around the internet for free on some of your household computers then you will likely see significant savings on Office 365.
Office 365 Features
Going with the subscription service does offer a few advantages beyond the number of PCs you get to install Office on at any given time, however. The most obvious of these is the extra software.
The most basic package for Office 365, Home Premium, includes access to Outlook, Publisher, Access, 20GB of SkyDrive storage, and Office on Demand. Of these, for Outlook you are required to purchase the $219 Home & Business 2013 and for Access and Publisher you’ll be looking at a $399.99 Professional 2013 purchase for every PC you want to use. Those latter packages are also business licenses, which adds extra value beyond the included programs, but that isn’t going to make life any easier for somebody who just wants Outlook on their home PC.
SkyDrive space is a comparatively minor factor in most cases. The free SkyDrive account that anybody can get without the need for a paid subscription still offers substantial storage space. The extra 20GB is never going to be something to scoff at, but it shouldn’t be considered a major thing unless you are a heavy user of the cloud storage service already.
Office on Demand, on the other hand, is impressive. It allows you to access your documents on any computer running Windows 7 or 8. It doesn’t matter if that computer has no existing Office software, you will get a streamed application with the full feature set you have on practically any other PC with the full installation. It might not be as snappy, but it’s certainly handy and helps maintain a consistent experience that is hard to get otherwise. Moving documents between Office 2013 and Google Docs when on the road is a pain by comparison.
Office 365 Updates
The fact that Office 365 will always be the most up to date software that Microsoft has available will be quite appealing to some users. It isn’t so much that there is a constant need for the latest updates to your word processor or spreadsheet so much as the added security and streamlined functions that these updates provide are always welcome.
It isn’t too likely that Microsoft is planning to update their file formatting in any way quite as upsetting as the Docx transition for quite a while, so this will mainly end up being an aesthetic choice rather than a necessary one unless they come up with some truly impressive things for the next iteration of the suite.
Should You Sign Up for Office 365?
While I definitely don’t advocate dropping your old Office software for the newest versions on principle, especially if you already have a multi-license package in use, that doesn’t mean there is nothing to be gained. I’m going to be looking at each of the pieces of Office 2013 software included in the Office 365 Home Premium subscription this week to check out what has been done to make it all worthwhile, so make sure to check that out.
If you are already determined to pick up a copy of the latest Microsoft Office products, however, then hopefully this will help things along. While there has been some progress made in getting Microsoft to back down from their most unpleasant license restrictions in the past few months, it isn’t likely that they will be loosening up single sales to allow use on more than one PC at a time. That means that your cost/benefit ratio is going to tilt in favor of the subscription in practically any upgrade scenario.
Check back soon for our look at Word 2013!