Microsoft announced the worldwide launch of its new Office suite on Tuesday (29 January 2013), which now has a subscription service as well as normal boxed-copy versions of the productivity software.
This adds a number of new options for prospective buyers, each with trade-offs that need to be considered before deciding which product to go for.
A particularly important consideration for South African buyers, for instance, is that the Office 365 box does not contain any media.
Uriel Rootshtain, business lead of the Office division at Microsoft South Africa explained that users would have to download the software from the Internet rather than installing it from a DVD.
In contrast, stand-alone versions of Office 2013 will include installation media in South Africa, Rootshtain said.
Subscription vs pay-once
Another consideration is the fact that an Office 365 subscription will have to be renewed (annually, or after four years depending on the license purchased), or users will be unable to use Office fully.
Microsoft offsets this drawback by charging less for an Office 365 subscription than for a stand-alone copy of Office 2013, as well as through additional features.
Examples of features that Office 365 has that Office 2013 doesn’t are continual updates, and Office on Demand.
Asked how the on-going upgrades would work, Rootshtain explained that they would be rolled-out first to Office 365. Stand-alone users would then have to buy the next version of Office to get the updates.
Office on Demand lets Office 365 users download and use applications in the suite on PCs where Microsoft Office hasn’t been installed.
|Microsoft Office 365 and Office 2013 stand-alone feature comparison|
|Office 365||Office 2013 (Stand-alone)|
|Feature||Home Premium||University||Home & Student||Home & Business||Professional|
|Estimated Retail Price||R750/year||R750/4 years||R990||R2,430||R4,320|
|Installation media (i.e. DVD)||No, download only||No, download only||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|License period||1 year||4 years||Perpetual||Perpetual||Perpetual|
|Licensee||One household||One person||Individual||Individual||Individual|
|Number of devices||5||2||1||1||1|
Office 365 renewals and non-commercial use
When the expiration date of your Office 365 subscription draws near, Rootshtain explained you will receive notifications advising you to buy an extension.
Rootshtain also confirmed that South Africans will be able to buy Office directly from Microsoft online.
Although none of the Office 365 options announced on Tuesday allow for commercial use, Rootshtain said that a “Small Business Premium” version of Office 365 will launch on 27 February 2013.
He wasn’t willing to discuss the pricing or other details of the plan, saying only that they will talk about it more in February.