Subscription-only Microsoft Office? Don't hold your breath, says Microsoft

Subscription services are the future, says Microsoft – but it may take a decade before everyone agrees with it.

While Adobe has decided to the ditch the boxed software concept, Microsoft says it will take a little longer before Office is sold by subscription only.

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Earlier this week Adobe announced it is moving to a cloud subscription model for Creative Cloud suite . Writing on Microsoft's Office News blog, Office division head of comms Clint Patterson described Adobe as a "pioneer" and added: "Some pundits point to this as the future, others explore challenges, and a few wonder if Office is next." 

Answering the question, he added: "Like Adobe, we think subscription software-as-a-service is the future. The benefits to consumers are huge. Subscribers are always up-to-date. They get the latest and most complete applications. They can use subscriptions across the multitude of devices people use today."

Products like SkyDrive and Skype are also more easily integrated with subscription services, Patterson said.

"However, unlike Adobe, we think people's shift from packaged software to subscription services will take time. Within a decade, we think everyone will choose to subscribe because the benefits are undeniable," he added.

Microsoft is gradually evolving from being a seller of packaged software to being a services company — but a ten year transition may be longer than some industry watchers would have expected.

Many software companies are looking at moving to cloud and subscription models: as well as Adobe, CA Technologies recently said it wanted to shift to software as a service for as many of its products as possible. However, not all tech chiefs are convinced that Saas is the only way forward for enterprise software.

Patterson said Microsoft remains "committed to offering choice" in the form of packaged software and subscriptions.

Since the launch of Office 365 Home Premium and Office 365 University in January, more than a quarter of consumers buying Office have chosen the subscription. "This exceeded our expectations, given that software subscriptions are relatively new to most consumers. So, perhaps the shift is happening faster than we originally thought, and Adobe is helping blaze the trail," Patterson wrote.