Office 365 needs to embrace rival platforms

Office 365 needs to embrace rival platforms

Summary: A seamless experience across multiple devices and mobile platforms, and a lower yearly subscription fee, will boost consumer interest in Office 365 Home Premium.

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Microsoft's Office 365 Home Premium should be made available on other rival platforms such as Apple iOS and Google Android so user experience can be unified across various mobile devices. Its relatively pricey yearly subscription also has have been highlighted extensively since its recent launch.

According to Reed Wotiz, regional director of Office marketing at Microsoft Asia-Pacific, there are currently two options for consumers keen to access the latest Office software. The first is to sign up for Office 365 Home Premium for S$138 (US$110.49) a year, which can be installed on up to five devices and includes Skype world minutes and 20 gigabytes (GB) of SkyDrive storage.

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Office 365 Home Premium offers installation for up to 5 devices, but consumers and analysts are asking for the software to be opened to rival platforms to make it more appealing.

For consumers who do not require the additional services bundled with the Office suite, Wotiz recommended they purchase the software as a traditional suite with a single install.

"The price of the Office 365 subscription reflects the value you get," he pointed out. "One subscription serves the entire household. It includes the latest and most complete set of Office applications [and] works across up to five devices, including Windows tablets, PCs and Macs."

He added that Office 365 Home Premium is available in Asia in markets including Australia, Bangladesh, Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, South Korea, Laos, Philippines, Singapore, Sri Lanka, and Vietnam.

Analysts question pricing, subscription model

However, Michael Silver, research vice president and distinguished analyst at Gartner, said the S$138 (US$110.49) yearly subscription contributes to its view that initial uptake on Office 365 Home Premium will not be stellar.

"We're generally skeptical that uptake will be strong initially. Consumers are not used to paying an annual fee for office productivity suites and the price may prove to be higher than they expect," Silver said. "The prior version of Office 2010 had a home and student version which could be installed on three devices for between US$100 and US$150, though it included fewer bundled products, so [the current pricing] is very high in comparison."  

Tang Pin-Chen, research analyst at Canalys, added that while Office 365 Home Premium offers greater value to consumers, the subscription-based model is still highly unproven today. The analyst added it remains to be seen whether it will be a better option to a boxed software offering.

Tang pointed out that most consumers will not need to upgrade to the latest version of Office, which typically refreshes every three years, and they will use whatever version they have for as long as possible to stretch the value of their purchase.

"Although a subscription-based model will allow pricing to start off lower, paying it through installments [or yearly subscription] might actually cost more in the long run as compared to buying a boxed version of Office," he noted. "Hence, we feel the yearly pricing is still prohibitive for most consumers as they may be paying for more than what they actually need on a regular basis."

He added that Microsoft has to realize it is no longer the monopoly player in the productivity tools market, as competitors such as Google and even Evernote are providing tools to average consumers at low to no cost.

As such, Redmond's pricing strategy needs to reflect the market landscape, he said.

Availability on rival platforms desired

Price was a key consideration for one consumer ZDNet Asia spoke to. Lim Chih Yang, assistant vice president at OCBC, said while the S$138 for software, online storage and installation for five devices is "reasonable", a more affordable S$99 (US$79.25) a year would have mass market appeal.

"Access on iPad and Android devices is important for road warriors, so even if Microsoft prices down its yearly subscription, I will only subscribe if it gives me seamless access across all devices."

Additionally, he said he is only willing to part with the cash if Office 365 is available across all his devices, namely, Apple's MacBook Air, iPad, the office PC desktop, and iPhone, "with no formatting issues".

Lim explained: "Access on iPad and Android devices is important for road warriors, so even if Microsoft prices down its yearly subscription, I will only subscribe if it gives me seamless access across all devices."

The two analysts also picked up on the need to open access to rival platforms. Silver said if Microsoft had versions of Office for the iOS or Android operating systems (OSes), its offering would likely be "much more compelling".

Tang also noted that Canalys' fourth quarter 2012 data shows Microsoft currently holds only 3.4 percent of the total tablet market worldwide, adding that in order for Office 365 Home Premium to see more success, the software vendor has to open it up to other ecosystems.

"We feel that Office 365 Home Premium needs to be opened to more OSes and prices definitely need to be more competitive in order to spur consumers to purchase it," he reiterated.

Then there will be consumers who, regardless of the marketing efforts put in by Microsoft, will be hesitant to support the online access model.

Rina Tay, a regional director of a Singapore-based company, told ZDNet Asia the boxed version of Office still offered a better buy as it would be easier to reinstall the software should the personal computer crash.

"If you buy online, there is no [physical] disc and you may have a hard time trying to find your confirmation code, especially if you subscribed a long time back," Tay explained.

Topics: Microsoft, Cloud, Bring Your Own Device

Kevin Kwang

About Kevin Kwang

A Singapore-based freelance IT writer, Kevin made the move from custom publishing focusing on travel and lifestyle to the ever-changing, jargon-filled world of IT and biz tech reporting, and considered this somewhat a leap of faith. Since then, he has covered a myriad of beats including security, mobile communications, and cloud computing.

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10 comments
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  • Office 2013 has three main problems.

    1. The interface is terrible, horrible, ugly and unsusable. The lack of contrast between areas, the wasted blank spaces between content that show less content than in previous versions and the lack of colors causes too much eye strain. This is the same than Visual Studio 2012.

    2. Office 2013 has less functionality than previous versions. There are a lot of deprecated functionality and has no new and improvement features:

    http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/cc178954.aspx
    http://blogs.office.com/b/microsoft-outlook/archive/2012/12/19/outlook-2013-deprecated-features-and-components.aspx

    What are the advantages of Office 2013? What are the benefits of upgrade? None. Any previsous version of Office is BEST.

    3. Powerpivot not available on any Office 2013 edition. Only on the most expensive Pro edition. On any previous version is available on any edition. (PivotCharts and PivotTables are removed on all versions and editions of Access 2013 and no longer supported).

    4. Office 2013 prices and licensed are not acceptable or desirable. Beginning with the transfer option that Microsoft recently changes, who can guarantee that Microsoft will not change again in the future the terms of the license? With these unfair contracts, and acting this way, you lose confidence in Microsoft.

    Note that Microsoft change the transfer licensing option ONLY because the sales are poor. In no event shall Microsoft is thinking about users, as demonstrated so far with all his past actions.
    SuperCocoLoco
  • No Can Do ...

    ... at least not yet.

    If MSFT were to offer Office on APPL or LINUX then they would be removing the main reason to buy WINDOWS (the other reason is in the hands of ADOBE).
    I suspect MSFT's strategy is:

    - cheap upgrade offer for WINDOWS 8 to keep consumers on WINDOWS
    - expensive upgrade to Office to set the bar for subscriptions
    - all out effort to challenge APPL on tablets and smartphones

    Personally I would have made the opening offer for Office subscriptions wildly attractive ... and increased the price progressively later. I paid UK£85 for 3 installs of Office 2007 six years ago and could get the same deal for Office 2010. If the subscription price for Office 2013 had been, say, UK£10, per machine ... then I think it would have been widely praised and adopted. In practice this would have maintained MSFT's current revenue stream. Once the majority have converted, then the price could be slowly increased. The greedy initial offering will limit subscription adoption. My guess is MSFT plans to start high and slowly reduce over the next few years ... a bit like the cloud pricing wars with AMZN.

    MSFT will only release Office for other ecosystems if it feels it has lost the tablet and smartphone wars: I wouldn't expect them to concede that for at least 5/6 years.

    Customer desire and MSFT acquiescence are rarely in phase :-(
    jacksonjohn
  • Anti-Microsoft propaganda

    "Its relatively pricey yearly subscription also has have been highlighted extensively since its recent launch."

    Dude. Seriously? No it hasn't. Because it's cheap.
    Tim Acheson
    • Không Cẩn

      "Not needed." Nobody needs to propagandize against Microsoft. The math is correct. In the three years between release cycles a subscription user will end up paying twice what it would cost to buy the previous (shoddy) version outright.

      Microsoft lost its way years ago. When I first worked there in 1989 it was vibrant, exciting, open, dynamic .. then it became corporate and org-charted and meeting-oriented, nobody could concentrate more than an hour because there was a recurring meeting to go to. Now it has the tyranny of the Kremlin coupled with the paranoia of a crack house; everyone is terrified of the annual review, internal procedures are so broken and unwieldy that people close their office doors and sob in frustration, and coding and operation standards require the use of practices that make any serious programmer gape in horror. You should see C# in production code. Talk about spaghetti.

      Nobody wants to hire ex-Microsofties because they don't know anything about programming, all they know is MS standards and rules, which are garbage.
      Chris Fox
  • Why?

    Why buy a subscription that works out to be more over three years than outright purchase, especially when you include data transmission costs which are sky-high in Aus? Nonsensical.
    KRP1950
    • why buy a subscription?

      Tax allowance, you pay tax on what you own and deduct it for lease as one is an asset the other is an overhead.
      Kevin Morley
  • Stick with 2003

    Office was mature and complete ten years ago and every version since just moves features around to new locations without regard to their vitality and adds an occasional new feature nobody cares about. For example, serious word users make heavy use of paragraph and character styles, which in O2003 were easy to reach. Suddenly they're hidden behind some micro-icon on some disorganized toolbar.

    Microsoft doesn't make money on people using their software, only on people buying or updating, so they release new versions just to keep the cash coming in and irrespective of need. This is already bad enough in Windows, which has become all but unusable starting with Vista and is only rescued from complete unusability by the deeply hidden option of replacing that ghastly Aero shell with the "Classic" 2000/XP hybrid.

    But in office the unmotivated upgrades become profoundly awful. Each new version is worse, the application frame windows cluttered with controls and less organized than a movie poster for a Chinese martial arts B-flick.

    And whoever was responsible for the horror that is Visual Studio should get a big Thank You letter from Apple for driving developers away from Windows.

    25 years Windows developer, now writing for Apple
    Chris Fox
    Cần Thơ, Việt Nam
    Chris Fox
  • Don't Hold Your Breath

    .. awaiting an iPad or Android version of Office. A phrase from "Flatliners" springs to mind when thinking current CEO Ballmer or former CEO Gates: "pathetically competitive."

    From extorting hardware vendors into use MS instead of Corel Office to doggedly refusing to support competitors' platforms, Gates and loudmouth Ballmer embody the phrase. They don't care how much business they lose, they're going to cross their arms over their chests and so "no no no" to any suggestion they "support" their rivals with versions for other platforms, and to hell with customers. So why should I, who use four operating systems at home, buy into some crippleware version of a deeply deteriorated Office product that only works on one? No thanks.
    Chris Fox
    • bitter

      There's never anybody more scathing than an ex employee anywhere
      Kevin Morley
  • Re: "bitter "

    Yes, he worked (allegedly) at Microsoft 24 years ago, long before Windows 95 made Microsoft a huge company, so I'm sure he's up to date on everything Microsoft has done in the last two+ decades!
    I'd guess he was FIRED from Microsoft, perhaps because of the arrogance and hate-filled slurs he displays in his posts...
    xplorer1959