Microsoft is shaking things up a bit in the Office 365 lineup. Office 365 Home Premium is a tremendous value, but it's designed and priced for a family to use. Starting April 1, Microsoft is introducing Office 365 Personal for individual users who don't need Office on five different PCs.
For $70 per year (or $7 per month), Office 365 Personal will allow a customer to install and use Microsoft Office on one Windows or Mac PC, plus one tablet. It also includes all of the other benefits of Office 365, including 20 GB of additional OneDrive cloud storage and 60 minutes per month of Skype calls. Like other Office 365 subscriptions, Office 365 Personal comes with access to the most recent version of Office as well.
Is it worth it? Well, you definitely get some solid bang for your buck. Microsoft Office Home and Student 2013 retails for $140 and only includes Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote. Microsoft Office Home and Business 2013 costs $220 and adds Outlook to the mix. Office 2013 Professional — the version you get access to with an Office 365 subscription — sells for $400 and includes a number of other applications, like Access and Publisher.
If you compare just the cost of acquiring Office 2013 Professional against what you get with the Office 365 subscription, it will take more than five years of Office 365 Personal subscriptions before you'll spend the same $400. Office 2013 Professional is also limited to a single PC and does not include the fringe benefits of Office 365. Two or three years from now, when Microsoft rolls out the next major release of Office, that $400 investment in Office 2013 Professional will be obsolete, but the Office 365 subscription will allow you to download and install the new productivity suite so you'll always have the most current tools available.
Honestly, most individual users don't really need all of the tools in Office 2013 Professional. It's more practical to compare the value of Office 365 Professional against Office 2013 Home and Student or Office 2013 Home and Business. In that case, it will only take two or three years, respectively, to spend the same money on the Office 365 Personal subscription as it would cost to just buy the suite outright. Again, though, buying the Office suite only gets you a license for one PC, and it does not include the additional OneDrive storage or Skype calling minutes.
There still seems to be a lot of confusion about Office 365 among average consumers. Many people are under the impression that Office 365 is a purely cloud-based service — akin to subscribing to use just the Office Web Apps (which are actually free for anyone to use). The reality is that when you subscribe to Office 365, you're buying the same Office software as the standalone suite, you're just paying for it a different way and gaining a number of additional features and benefits that aren't available with the standalone product.
As a side note, Microsoft is also changing the name of Office 365 Home Premium to simply Office 365 Home. Households with multiple family members are better off signing up for Office 365 Home because it costs only $100 per year (or $10 per month). It provides all of the benefits of Office 365 Personal, but for up to five separate users.
Which version of Office do you use and why? Let us know in the discussion thread below.
Tony Bradley is a principal analyst with Bradley Strategy Group. He is a respected authority on technology, and information security. He writes regularly for Forbes, and PCWorld, and contributes to a wide variety of online and print media outlets. He has authored or co-authored a number of books, including Unified Communications for Dummies, Essential Computer Security, and PCI Compliance.