I attended a webinar on Microsoft’s new Office 365 Home product today and can report on the near-finished feature set.
Programs included: Word, Access, Outlook, Publisher, PowerPoint, Excel, OneNote.
Price: $99.99 per year.
Number of installs: Install on up to five devices. Installs can be deactivated on one device and activated on another, also. Just so the total does not exceed 5.
Storage: In addition to whatever storage you already have on SkyDrive, if any, you will receive 20 GB additional with the Office 365 subscription. The storage is tied to an account, so it is only for one of the five installations. The standard free amount of SkyDrive storage for Microsoft Live accounts is 7GB, but those who opted in some time ago may have an additional 25GB.
Extra incentive: 60 minutes of free Skype calls per month.
Limitations: for Windows 7 or 8 only. Not supported on previous versions.
Preview: Get it now at http://www.office.com/preview. It is still in beta, but is nearing completion.
Microsoft clearly wants to move to the subscription-based software as a service (SaaS) model rather than the traditional product DVD distribution model. They have sweetened the deal by allowing five installations on the same subscription, which will meet the needs of most households.
They also clearly want to move to a cloud-storage model, and must see it as a long-term profitable business. If you are uncertain about cloud storage you can simply store things locally, but there is nothing like logging in to one computer, finding Word and Excel with the settings you have pre-configured, working on a document, and then going to another distant computer and finding the document at exactly the place you left off with the programs configured in just the same way. It is a compelling product offering.
The Skype minutes will also be a motivator for some, though I remain at a loss about what people see in Skype.
In addition to retaining your Office settings and files across multiple platforms, one of the chief advantages is that Office will be upgraded (patched) by Microsoft as a matter of course. You will no longer have to apply security patches or fiddle with service packs. This has a lot of appeal to me. Every time I login I’ll have the latest, most secure version of the product.
When the Office 365 Home product beta was first announced Microsoft included a monthly payment option, but they have backed off of that now. It is only possible to pay annually, but the price is very good considering what you get. It is unclear how the new model will relate to discounts and purchasing options through the FCCC for college faculty members, but I expect they will continue as always, but because the price is so competitive, and it includes 5 installations, I expect most faculty will opt for the Office 365 Home subscription rather than the stand-alone DVD install.
Please note that Office 365 is not a replacement for the free web versions of the core Office programs, which will remain available and free. Anyone who has used them knows, however, that their feature sets are severely limited. Note also that Office 365 can be used by Mac users (though the preview is not for them), but until the next version of Office is released for Mac the version available will be Office 2011 for Mac, while PC users will get the new Office 2013.