When you think of things you regularly pay a yearly subscription for, office software probably isn't high on that list. Microsoft wants to change that.
With the launch of Office 2013, Microsoft is introducing a new way for you to buy its software. No need to go to the store for a shrink-wrapped boxed version, it's moved to a subscription-based model. For $99 you get what's called Microsoft Office 365 Home Premium. You can install the software on up to five devices in your household. This is nice since many families today have a main computer and then kids tend to have laptops of their own for schoolwork. The software can also be used on Mac computers, though Microsoft is still using Office 2011 for Macs.
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For your yearly subscription fee, you get pretty much everything in the Office suite and then some. In addition to Word, Excel, PowerPoint and the oft-overlooked OneNote, among others, you get what is called Office on Demand. This means you can access these programs on any Windows 7- or Windows 8-connected PC. You also get an extra 20GB of SkyDrive space over and above the 7GB Microsoft already offers for free, to save all your documents in the cloud.
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The subscription fee includes 60 minutes of Skype calls each month. You might think that's nothing since PC to PC calls are free, but remember, Skype calls can also be made to a landline phone, say, to a relative who isn't very computer savvy. So that means an hour per month of free calls to Aunt Gertrude.
At the Microsoft launch event in New York City this week, Rachel Bondi, general manager for office product marketing, told Mashable "people want more regular updates on their terms, allowing them to be able to get more frequent features that make their lives a little easier."
That's exactly what Microsoft is trying to do with the subscription model. While it's been three years since the last version of Office was released, Microsoft plans on pushing out updates to programs as soon as they're ready. If PowerPoint or Word has an update, a user can download it -- there's no need to wait for a whole new version of the suite to come out. Bondi says some service packs will be automatically streamed to your computer when they're ready so you're always up to date.
Customers are getting used to the idea of paying a yearly fee for online services. Xbox Live users pay a yearly fee for their gaming and entertainment. We pay monthly or yearly for services such as Netflix and Spotify. It makes sense that Microsoft is looking to capitalize off this paid model.
You may think $99 a year is a lot to pay for software, and you might be right, depending on your circumstances. If you have just one computer, perhaps two, and use it for mainly word processing and a spreadsheet, you'd be better off buying a boxed copy of Office Home and Student.
However, for families with two or three laptops in the house and perhaps a kid off at school with another one, a $99 yearly fee makes good sense. Especially with the SkyDrive storage and cloud-based access to all your email, calendars and documents.
What do you think, is a yearly subscription fee right for you? Let us know in the comments.
BONUS: Office 2013 Review
Image courtesy of Microsoft
This story originally published on Mashable here.