20 Feb 2013

Microsoft Office 2013 has a variety of options when it comes to purchasing or subscribing to it.  These options can seem very confusing to the consumer at first.  Of the various forms of Office 2013 there is the Office 365 suite, the stand alone desktop version, and Office web-based apps.  Here we will examine each and try to make sense of it all.

Office 2013 Desktop Version

This is the version we have all known over the years.  Its a desktop version that is the next after Office 2010.  Office 2013 offers a host of enhancements over its predecessor, including touch-optimized controls, better graphics support and smooth integration with SkyDrive and SharePoint.   You install it on one PC and pay only once.  Upgrades will cost additional each time the software moves onto a whole new version.

Office 2013 Home and Student

  • License: Perpetual
  • Cost:  $139.99
  • Installs: 1 PC / Device

 This is the basic version that includes only the core applications Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote and with 2013 you can only install on ONE PC (in the past it was three).

Office 2013 Home & Business 2013

  •  License: Perpetual
  • Cost: $219.99
  • Installs: 1 PC / device

This version includes the core applications Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote, along with Outlook.  Basically you are paying $80 more to have Outlook and you do not get Access or Publisher unless you step up to Professional.

Office 2013 Professional

  • License: Perpetual
  • Cost: $399.99
  • Installs: 1 PC / device

Professional 2013 is akin to the Office 365 Home Premium below.  It provides the core applications Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote, as well as Outlook, Access, and Publisher.

Office 2013 Professional Plus

  • License: Perpetual
  • Cost: $399.99
  • Installs: Volume Licensing

Professional Plus is the volume licensing version of the Professional version along with InfoPath and Lync.  There is a free trial of Office 2013 Professional Plus located here.

 *If you bought a version Office 2010 after October 19th of 2012 and you buy it before April 30, 2013, you can get a free upgrade to Office 2013.

Office 365

Office 365 can be thought of as the subscription model for Office 2013, effectively you "rent" the software.  You can install the applications from the Office 365 website and onto multiple machines.  This multiple machine / device ability is what sets Office 365 apart from past offerings, along with their upgrade policy.

Office 365 Home Premium

  • License: Subscription
  • Cost: $99.99 per household per year
  • Installs:  5 PCs / devices

Home Premium is along the lines of Office Professional 2013.  This version allows you to install Office 365 Home Premium on up to 5 machines or devices and comes with the core applications such as Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote, along with Outlook, Access and Publisher.  Also included is Office on Demand, 60 minutes of Skype Minutes per month, 20 GB of additional SkyDrive storage and perpetual upgrades as long as you continue to subscribe.  The cost at $99 per year is around $8 per month.

**Microsoft offers a 30 day trial at Office.com for Office 365 Home Premium.

Office 365 Small Business Premium

  • License: Subscription
  • Cost:  $149.99 per user per year
  • Installs:  5 PCs / devices per user

There are some differences between this Small Business version and Home Premium.  This version is akin to Office Professional Plus 2013.  It includes the core applications Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote, along with Outlook, Access and Publisher, but also includes Lync and InfoPath.  Also included is Office on Demand, shared calendars and 25 GB for Exchange Online, 10 GB plus 500 MB per user with SharePoint Online, public and intranet web site ability and perpetual upgrades as long as you continue to subscribe.  So the Business edition is using Office 365 cloud services, whereas the Home Premium is using SkyDrive.

Office 365 University

  • License: Subscription
  • Cost: $79.99 for a 4 year subscription
  • Installs:  2 PCs or Macs / 2 smartphones or tablets

University is available for those enrolled in full or part time schools, along with faculty and staff at accredited institutions.  You have to go online and verify your eligibility prior to activating. 

A full comparison of the various products is also shown here from Microsoft.

Office Web apps

Lastly, there are the free Office web apps that have been around since 2010.  These are inline with similar offerings from Google with Google Docs.  Here you have web-based versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote, along with the Outlook.com email service.  They work through the SkyDrive interface.  Microsoft has also made the web apps touch friendly for editing particularly for use in the browser and on IE10, Windows 8 and iOS 6 as well.

With Word you will see graphics and images laid out in high-fidelity, with support for adding comments.

Excel you get the essential spreadsheet experience with things like merging cells, context menus, auto-fit columns, formulas, fill handle and AutoSum.  You can also visualize data with charts and 3D.

The PowerPoint Web app features presentations that look just like on the desktop, with high-res slides and full transitions as well as viewable comments.  Audio and video playback is supported, even from a phone or tablet.  There is co-authoring and comment support as well.

The OneNote web app works similar to the desktop version.  There is support for ink viewing.  You can click-to-type anywhere to add a note.  Notes can be shared as a URL and shared on a phone, PC or tablet via the browser.

There is also blog from Mike Morton, Office Web Apps Principal Program Manager which also outlines more and shows some behind the scenes look at the new Office Web Apps.

Which to buy?

Ultimately this decision is going to depend on what you need.  If you need Outlook, Access and Publisher, then there is some merit to buying the Office 365 Home Premium subscription as opposed to paying $399 for the standalone professional.  That is, provided you think you may use it on multiple machines. Let's say the next major version of Office doesn't come out for 3 years and you only will use it on one single machine.. The cost per month is roughly $11.08 for Office 2013 Professional on one machine.  Office 365 Home Premium is $99 per year or $8.25 per month, but this version allows for up to 5 PCs and devices, so clearly its the better deal, if you assume a 3 year cycle, however its pretty clear that future major updates with the major Windows products will be coming faster in the future, how much faster, time will tell.

If you just seek Outlook, paying the one time fee of $219 for Office 2013 Home and Business is one option, but again, you are landlocked to one single machine install.

Ultimately you will have to weigh out your options and needs and determine which is best.  Of course there is always the Web version for minimal use type situations, but not as flexible or powerful.

What happens if you don't continue to subscribe?

It is likely that the documents you have created will go into a read only mode and be viewable on SkyDrive with the free web applications.  The applications will remain on your machine and can be reactivated if you subscribe again.

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