Will a household license convince you to go with Office in the cloud?

Will a household license convince you to go with Office in the cloud?

Summary: Microsoft has gone public with pricing for the consumer and small-business versions of the next Office suite, which will be available both 'for rent' and 'for purchase.'


On September 17, Microsoft took the wraps off pricing for its coming Office release and confirmed the timing of the Office 2010-to-Office 2013 upgrade program about which I blogged last week.


Now it's time for those mulling how, when and if to move to the latest version to consider whether there are enough cloud carrots to offset the on-premises sticks.

As my ZDNet colleague Ed Bott notes, Microsoft is going to make it pricier than ever for consumers and small businesses to use the localized Office 2013 release and more attractive to use the Office 365 complements of these products. This is Redmond's not-so-subtle way of attempting to convince more users to go the subscription/cloud route.

But there are other points to consider, too, if you're unsure about the idea of "Office in the cloud" ... like I am, to be honest.

First, in spite of its new "Office 365" naming conventions, the new Office 365 Home Premium and Small Business Premium SKUs are not cloud-only. They are sold on a subscription basis, meaning users agree to "rent" the Office software for a year when they purchase them. Both of these allow users to install local versions of the key Office 2013 apps onto their PCs and tablets for use when offline. That's a relief, to me. I am not ready to go cloud-only with Office -- even though I admittedly use Notepad for my basic word processing needs more than I do Word these days.

While they aren't cloud only, these two brand-new Office SKUs -- which Microsoft first introduced in July  -- do offer some of the upside that users get when they use Office 365 and other cloud services: Namely, you get regular feature updates and bug fixes in a regular, more timely manner. You don't have to wait for Service Pack 1 or Update Pack 1 to get these. Instead, those who subscribe to Office 365 Home Premium or Small Business will get these updates on some kind of regular schedule (at least twice a year to start, the Softies say).

There's also the new "household" license which Microsoft is introducing as part of the Office 365 Home Premium and Small Business SKUs to consider. A "household" license is much like a family pack. It will allow everyone living at a single address to be considered a pool of users. This pool will be able to install the new Office 365 SKUs on any combination of up to five Windows PCs, Windows tablets and Macs for a single price.

I'm somewhat of an anomaly here. I am a one-PC household. (I do have an iPad, but that is not currently covered by this household license. It's Windows and Mac OS only.) So why would I agree to "rent" Office for use on up to five devices for a year?

I admit it's the word "rent" that makes me hesitate more than the overkill on licenses. I want to own my software! But as Bott has noted before, no one really "owns" software ... even software you purchase outright. It's perpetually licensed to you only for use on certain devices.

If I think about Office subscriptions more like music subscriptions, I get a little less queasy. When you subscribed to Microsoft's ZunePass service, you paid for the rights to listen to music on certain devices for a set period of time. When you stopped paying, you no longer could listen to that music (unless you had purchased it using song credits or points).

In the case of Office 365 Home Premium and Small Business Premium, if you stop paying for those SKUs after a year, you'll have a grace period to figure out what to do with your stored information. In the case of Home Premium, users will be able to download their saved SkyDrive- and/or locally-saved data, open it with Office Web Apps and read/print it for some set period of time. (Microsoft isn't currently specifying how long that will be.) In the case of Small Business Premium, you'll have some kind of currently-unspecified grace period, as well, when you can access, read and print data stored in SharePoint Online.

Microsoft execs still won't talk about planned RTM or availability dates for Office 2013, but have said the RT version of Office 2013 will start rolling out in November. I continue to hear Office 2013 for PCs will RTM in November, as well, with general availability slated for early 2013.

So am I ready to bite the cloud carrot and pay $8.33 a month (or $99.99 a year) for Office 365 Home Premium or $12.50 per user per month ($149.99 a year) for Office 365 Small Business Premium once they are available? I'm still undecided, but I'm at least considering making the move. What about you?

Topics: Cloud, Collaboration, Microsoft, Software


Mary Jo has covered the tech industry for 30 years for a variety of publications and Web sites, and is a frequent guest on radio, TV and podcasts, speaking about all things Microsoft-related. She is the author of Microsoft 2.0: How Microsoft plans to stay relevant in the post-Gates era (John Wiley & Sons, 2008).

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  • NO!

    Sorry, but Microsoft can take a flying leap if they think I'm going to "rent" software on a monthly basis. I have enough monthly bills for necessary items in my home, and software I use on my computer will never be one of them. An Office suite lasts me several years. If they're going to jack up the price so high that nobody can afford to 'buy' their software, then they can keep it. I'll use Office 2010 forever. And if not, there are plenty of other solutions available for my home needs that don't have the Microsoft name attached to them. (But unfortunately the world is full of enough sheep that will just blindly accept the cloud & software renting because Microsoft told them to.)
    • Agree

      "In the case of Home Premium, users will be able to download their saved SkyDrive- and/or locally-saved data, open it with Office Web Apps and read/print it for some set period of time."

      Read/print only for some set period of time????? Anybody who agrees to this kind of eternal lock-in deserves to get fleeced forever, which is exactly what MS wants. Over my dead body.
      • You clearly misunderstood

        "Read/print only for some set period of time?????"

        The "some set period of time" clearly refers to the "Using Office Web Apps" portion, not to the ownership of the documents. Nowhere in that sentence does it suggest that you will be prevented from opening your office documents in any other application after your subscription has expired. The files you download are normal .docx or .xlsx files, indistinguishable from .docx or .xlsx files that were created with a non subscription version of Office.
    • ??

      $8 is a no brainer considering what you get in return.
      • What you get is a ....

        lifetime lock-in. If that suits you, go for it. I would not touch it even if free. NOBODY will EVER control MY full access to MY data. I am not an idiot.
        • And nobody is

          "NOBODY will EVER control MY full access to MY data."

          So you have nothing to fear.
        • I think that door just sighed.

          Microsoft is only providing a service for a fee. There's no conspiracy here. Your files are stored locally as well as the cloud (similar to iCloud for Apple customers), and you can export them to another format to minimize lock-in (which you'd have to do with Google docs too, when you leave). Software subscriptions have been around forever in the business domain, and has the benefit of ongoing updates and improvements. It's not 100% painless, but NOTHING ELSE is either - you trade-off pros and cons no matter what you decide.

          The lower entry price is a smart move. This costs about as much as a NetFlix subscription, and there you don't get to keep anything except memories. The only reasonable opposition is if you don't like Office in the first place, in which case, you're only here to complain anyway, so have fun!
      • Too expensive

        and requires too much cloud access.
        I do a lot of work off line and through work get MS stuff like MSOffice Pro for $10.
        Another tool I use very frequently is Visio and Project.

        Sorry, this looks very unappetizing.
        I'll pass.
    • Hemo2 ...you left out ...on a rolling donut

      but your also a 100% correct .....they are out of their minds if they think that idea will fly................
      Over and Out
    • And the media will preasure many to move thier lives to the cloud


      You said it! This Cloud revolution is nothing but an attempt by large corprate entites to get the masses to voluntarily hand over their data. No matter how many protetcions you think you'll have your data will NEVER be as safe in the cloud as it will in your hands unless your hands are outstrecthed to the hackers of teh world and yoru begging them to steal from you.

      Those managing the cloud will NEVER, EVER, let me repeat that, NEVER EVER rspect or care for your privacy as much as you do. They will NEVER fight to protect your privacy like you would. They may at first put up a fight to maintain a giood image but once the majority are on the cloud the companies will stop trying to protect you and will give and or sell to government anythhing it wants regarding your data.

      The Cloud is a great idea for non-private, non-important items that you'd like to have access to from anywhere and are such that you don't care who knows about them and or who can see them.

      ALL - If you have children and you want to ensure the best future possible for them DO NOT put anything on the cloud about them.
  • LibreOffice

    I currently use LibreOffice and I am not planning on changing (unless the change their stupid name)
    • ryanmc ....... shhhh! don't let them find out their is a better way

      and ps, they don't care because they have plenty of money to burn.....
      Over and Out
      • LibreOffic is a better way?

        isn't that like saying that suicide is a better way then spending $100 on heart medicine for the rest of your life?
        William Farrel
        • William Farrel..... don't you think thats a very poor analogy

          LibreOffic does 99.9% of what Office does for 95% of the people. ....end of story and Will you know I'm right......................
          Over and Out
          • They've done studies you know...

            They've done studies, you know. 60% of the time, it works every time. -Brian Fantana, Anchorman.
      • LibreOffice is not always better

        I have it on my machine, versus Open/Apache/Symphony, so among those four, it's better. But it cannot really convert Word formats, even as far back as Word 2000. It happily has a menu interface much like Office 2003's, but its spreadsheet is very annoying: when you press F5, you can't just type in a range name, but must use your mouse to SEPARATELY designate a COLUMN and then SEPARATELY designate a row number. Idiotic, to make that, when F5 is the standard spreadsheet key from which you just TYPE the destination name, be it a cell address or a range.

        Libre can't read and convert many spreadsheets, either. Unlike Word 2003 and prior (though with 2003 you have to run special .reg fixes MS provides), Libre can't read wk1 files. Neither can Symphony, which makes no sense.

        So long as you have no old files, and you don't use F5, Libre's product line can be satisfactory for small home needs and rudimentary business needs, but since most people HAVE old files, Libre's utility is less than desirable. But it is better than the other four mentioned.

        There are other Open Source products which I've not yet tried, like Calligra and Kingsoft. Maybe they are better. Definitely better, is SmarSuite and older MS Office software, all of which you can buy for less than $60 at Amazon. Most of the financial and legal sector still use those products, rather than Office 2007 et seq.
  • Not in favor.

    Do I lease a car or buy it outright?

    It's a personal decision and I think you've nailed Microsoft's approach with your "carrot & stick" analogy.

    However, ceding more control to Microsoft does not appeal to me under any scenario. And besides, I don't like carrots.
    • Poor analogy

      If you decide to return a leased car the stuff you have in the car is still yours, 100%. Not so with MS. They would control your access to your belongings still in the car. As a matter of fact, you would have no right to remove any of your belongings prior to returning the car. You could look at your things, take pictures of them, but you would have to leave them in the car. That is how outrageous this will be.

      If you did decide to enter into a new lease on a new car with the lessor however, they will LET YOU transfer your belongings to the new car.

      How nice of them.
      • I don't see how your belongings are theirs?

        You mean the files saved in the proprietary format? Sure, but you could print them out, save them as PDFs or any of the other possible formats. So I don't see how you lose your belongings in this process.
        • How convenient, especially if you have lots of data files

          You have still lost full access to your files to do as you please, hence you have lost a significant right to your own data. The only way to retain full access is to keep paying.

          If that suits yo, go for it.