Microsoft revealed the subscription model when it first unveiled Office 2013, but now we know exactly how much it will cost: $8.33 a month or $99.95 a year. That’s for Office 365 Home Premium, which includes all the client software (Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, OneNote and others), but as a subscriber you’re now entitled to all software updates and access to web services included with Office, such as continually updated templates.
Microsoft is also throwing in 20GB of SkyDrive storage with the subscription as well as 60 minutes of Skype minutes per month (they don’t aggregate). The subscription covers five different devices (either PC or Mac) and — importantly — an number of users. The idea is a family with multiple PCs and Macs in the house only needs to buy one subscription to Office; individuals will see only their files and preferences when they log in with their Microsoft IDs.
Neither edition carries an “initial” fee for the download. Microsoft says the subscription model is the new normal, and that even though Office will be available as a traditional one-time purchase ($219.99 for Home and Business edition, $399.99 for Professional edition), it expects a subscription will make the most sense for many Office customers.
“This release of office is designed in a very different way,” says P.J. Hough, Microsoft’s corporate vice president of Office development. “We’ve invested heavily in this new streaming technology for delivering Office to PCs. It’ll stream incredibly fast, they’ll be able to use the apps while it’s streaming, and after it streams to your computer — in a matter of minutes — it behaves a lot like traditional Office. You can go offline or take it on a plane, so it’ll work offline.”
So how does the subscription work with Windows RT devices, which will have the Office apps pre-loaded? Using those apps doesn’t require a subscription, but you’ll only be able to access “subscription content” once you start paying. In any case, however, RT machines won’t count against your five-device limit. Updates will likely roll out at a “different rate” for RT devices, says Hough.
“A good analogy is that iOS 6 doesn’t install on the first iPad,” he says. “At some point, that device actually doesn’t get a subset of updates that happen — primarily because devices have changed, in terms of capabilities. So I expect RT devices will feel a little like that. But we’re talking years from now.”
And what if you need Office right away, and can’t wait for Microsoft to formally launch Office 2013? If you can wait until the week of Oct. 19, you should, since starting then Microsoft will offer an upgrade package to anyone buying Office 2010. If you buy the Home Premium edition, you’ll get the first year of your Office subscription free, and for the Small Business edition, you’ll get three months.