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Microsoft Pri0

Welcome to Microsoft Pri0: That's Microspeak for top priority, and that's the news and observations you'll find here from Seattle Times technology reporter Matt Day.

September 17, 2012 at 2:00 PM

Big changes coming to the way consumers buy Office

For years, most consumers have bought Office either by buying a physical package with a software disc or by downloading it.

If Microsoft has its way, that’s about to change.

Microsoft announced today details and pricing for its upcoming version of Office. The biggest change is that, in addition to the traditional ways of buying Office, Microsoft is also introducing Office 365 for consumers as a subscription service accessed online.

A single subscription of Office allows for multiple users and allows users to access their Office documents and programs across multiple devices.

Small businesses have been able to use Office 365 for a while now — and still can through the Office 365 Small Business Premium version.

But this is the first time Microsoft is offering a consumer version, called Office 365 Home Premium. The cost per subscription is $8.33 a month (or $99.99 per year), which allows for it to be used on up to 5 PCs or Macs. (The Small Business Premium version $149.99 per user per year and can be used on up to 5 PCs or Macs.)

Users’ documents will be stored on Microsoft’s SkyDrive personal cloud storage offering by default but people can choose to store their documents, instead, on their local hard drive.

Microsoft is touting Office 365 Home Premium as likely the best choice for families and for people with multiple devices, especially given that the traditional Office software — to be called Office 2013 — purchased via download or in a package will no longer offer the option of being installed on multiple devices. Users will be limited to using that traditional Office on one device. (The traditional versions of Office will cost $139.99 for the Home & Student version and $219.99 for the Home & Business version. The Professional version will cost $399.99.)

“With previous releases, customers expected a certain thing from us,” acknowledged Clint Patterson, communications director for the Office division at Microsoft. “This is going to reset expectations.

“Subscriptions, for us, represents a really fundamental shift in how we think about Office, how we deliver value for our customers,” he said. “Subscriptions allow us to deliver updates to customers multiple times a year. It means we can get updates to customers faster.

“We liken this to Netflix and Spotify,” Patterson said. “It’s roughly the same cost.”

Here’s a chart outlining the features and prices of the various versions of Office 365 (subscription service) and Office 2013 (traditional).

Microsoft did not give a release date for either Office 365 nor Office 2013.

But the company did say, in an official blog post: “Starting Oct. 19, people who purchase Office 2010 or Office for Mac 2011 will qualify to download, for free, one year of Office 365 Home Premium or the equivalent Office 2013 offering, when available. Small business customers in applicable markets will also be eligible for a three-month trial of Office 365 Small Business Premium.”

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