As the general availability date for the release of Windows 8 draws nearer, Microsoft last week unveiled details of its upcoming Office 2013 lineup. Not surprisingly, Microsoft has embarked on a strategy of offering Office 2013 both as a stand-alone product as well as under a subscription model where users pay a lower, but recurring fee.
The traditional retail for Office 2013 is straightforward. The highest-tier Office 2013 Professional will cost $399.99 for a single device, and include core Office 2013 applications such as Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, Outlook, Access and Publisher.
On the other hand, Office 2013 Home & Business edition is priced much cheaper at $219.99, but comes without Access and Publisher.
There are two main options on the subscription front, which are Office 365 Home Premium and Office 365 Small Business Premium. Microsoft’s subscription plans are substantially cheaper at $99.99 per year and $149.99 per year, respectively. Both plans allow Office 2013 to be installed on up to 5 PCs or Macs, though the former can be shared by multiple users from the same household and the latter, multiple devices owned by the same user.
Both subscription models come with the entire range of productivity software in Microsoft’s Office suite, as well as a range of other frills. For example, Office 365 Home Premium includes 20GB of SkyDrive storage, while Office 365 Small Business Premium includes Lync, InfoPath, a 25GB mailbox and 500MB per user of professional-grade cloud storage. You can see the detailed matrix chart of the various features and prices under both “New Subscriptions” and “Traditional” retail software here (docx) for more information.
According to a blog entry published on the Office News blog, “Subscriptions open a host of possibilities, and subscribing to Office 365 will be the best choice for many — especially families, people with multiple devices and small businesses.” It went on to elaborate that “With a single subscription, you can use Office across a wide variety of devices — everything from PCs and tablets to Macs.”
Microsoft is clearly directing users towards its subscription model, which offers substantially lower prices that are paid on a monthly or annual basis. This is obviously beneficial to SOHO and small businesses, given that it reduces the capital outlay required when hiring additional new staffers. It becomes even more appealing when you consider that the subscription plan gives users the licensing rights to use Office on multiple devices including laptops and tablet PCs.
On the other hand, SMBs must remember that not all businesses upgrade their productivity suite every two or even three years. An SMB that intends only to perform an upgrade at the end of three years may actually be better with Microsoft’s non-subscription Home & Business offering.
There is no news on availability yet, though Microsoft did say that customers who purchase Office 2010 or Office for Mac 2011 from October 19 will qualify for a free year of Office 365 Home Premium — or the equivalent Office 2013 offering, when they become available.
Additional information about Office 365 Enterprise and other business offerings will be made available in the coming months.