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MS hints at new Mac Office, offers Office 365 to new buyers

updated 03:07 am EDT, Tue September 18, 2012

Subscription-based model may become the norm for PC users

Microsoft will offer new buyers (as of October 19) of its existing Office 2011 standalone software for Macs the option of receiving either a free year's worth of the newly-announced Office 365 Home Premium -- a new consumer version of the online edition of Office that runs by subscription -- or a free upgrade to the next version of Microsoft Office for Mac. The promotion appears to be an either-or offer, but may give Mac users (for the first time) access to the entire suite of Office applications -- and a better look at the previously business-only Office 365.

The move is seen both as a way of covering for an extended delay before the next Mac standalone version comes out (which the company has now acknowledged is in progress but has not set a release date for) and as helping foster adoption of the subscription model for Office 365, which offers some advantages (particularly to Mac users) over the traditional model, but also some drawbacks. In addition to the full range of Office apps being available to both platforms, the subscription-based Office 365 offers steady updates and periodic additional capabilities and features and is seen as now being Microsoft's preferred way for users to use the suite.

The cost of the subscription is $100 per year or $8.33 per month. Microsoft will also make standalone but download-centric version of Office 2013 for PC users but hasn't said when the Mac version will be arriving, and until today had left it unclear that a standalone version was even in the works for the Mac platform. As Office 365 will eventually incorporate Office 2013 for Windows features, it will offer Mac users the staple Word, Excel, Outlook and Powerpoint apps, but also OneNote, Publisher, Access and other smaller apps for the first time. The company says it will include 20GB of cloud-based SkyDrive storage and an hour of free Skype-to-phone worldwide usage per month, and the 365 version may be available as long as two years ahead of the next standalone Mac version of Office.

One possible advantage of the subscription model to some users of both platforms would be that the license includes up to five computers (with an unlimited number of users), compared to the three users and licenses currently found in the "Home and Student" edition of Office 2011 for Mac. Users who had only seasonal or periodic need of the software could conceivably save money by purchasing a monthly rental only when they actually need it, and the promise of continual updates and potential new features may be valuable to those who rely on the software for their work.

On the other hand, users tend to go through a cycle of disliking the new version, followed by acceptance and familiarity with how it works, and eventually mastering it and holding on to that version out of comfort for perhaps years beyond Microsoft's intentions, then finally upgrading and repeating the cycle. Occasional users who come back to the program under subscription only to find it has been redesigned in the meantime may find the ever-evolving web-based version disorienting.

For PC users, Office 2013 will be priced (as a standalone program) at $140 for the Home and Student edition, with the Home and Business edition (which includes Outlook) costing $220. The Professional Editing (includes Access and Publisher) will sell for $400. Microsoft has not said when Office 2013 for Windows will actually ship as of yet. The company plans to let retailers sell a "Produce Key Card" for it rather than a boxed DVD, which users can then redeem for the download of the software. Office 2013 itself will not include any offers for Office 365, the promotion being intended only for new buyers of Office 2010 for Windows or 2011 for Mac.

To answer the criticism that web-based apps are useless when Internet access is interrupted, the Home Premium annual plan also includes temporary-use local versions of the applications to short-term access issues. There will also be a new Small Business Premium version of Office 365, good for companies with one to 10 employees that offers 25GB of Outlook cloud storage, a 10GB shared SkyDrive account (plus a 500MB one for each individual user), the ability for each user to install their "copy" on up to five machines (so up to 500 computers altogether), website hosting and online video-conference meetings and other features. It costs $149 per user per year.




By Electronista Staff
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Comments

  1. pairof9s

    Mac Enthusiast

    Joined: 01-03-08

    It should be noted that Microsoft states that Office 365's One Note, Access and Publisher are for PC only (See asterisks for the first bullet of each highlight section for the Office 365 Home Premium and Small Business.). I've never used 365 to know if this is true or not.

  1. coffeetime

    Mac Enthusiast

    Joined: 11-15-06

    I know that Access and Publisher were never available for Mac since version 1. Don't know about Note. Hopefully MS would not charge full price for Mac user.

  1. SWFan

    Forum Regular

    Joined: 02-05-05

    Pretty much guaranteed Mac users will pay the same annual fee for less functionality than their PC brethren. If it were otherwise it wouldn't be Microsoft Office for Mac users.

    Here is how I think this will play out.

    If you're a PC user it will cost $99/yr and you'll get the following:

    Word
    Excel
    PowerPoint
    Publisher
    Outlook
    Onenote
    Access

    The Mac users will pay the same $99/yr and get the following:

    Word
    Excel
    PowerPoint
    Outlook

    And of the above apps, there will likely be features missing that exist in the PC versions of each.

  1. Inkling

    Dedicated MacNNer

    Joined: 07-25-06

    On the other hand, users tend to go through a cycle of disliking the new version, followed by acceptance and familiarity with how it works, and eventually mastering it and holding on to that version out of comfort for perhaps years beyond Microsoft's intentions, then finally upgrading and repeating the cycle.

    I think you've hit upon a near perfect description of how Microsoft dominates certain markets. They create dreadful user interfaces--that's a given. But because of its market share, users are forced to learn that UI and, having done so, are unable to adapt to better-designed UIs from other companies. Then, as those other companies began to make their products look like Microsoft's, the company changes its UI yet again. It treats UI's like high-fashion clothing design. It doesn't matter that the new designs or impractical and ugly. What matters is that they're constantly changing, making it hard for competitors to keep up.

    I realized this when I talked to someone who's very high up in Microsoft's product support. He admitted to me that it took him two years to come to accept the latest changes in their UI, as if that was normal. But the kicker came when I asked him what Microsoft was doing to get other companies to at least follow the same design. His response implied that was something Microsoft would never consider doing.

    Of course, there are other things going on at the same time.

    I've got a job where at times I need to use Windows 7 and the accompanying Office products. At first, I wondered why anyone would be so stupid as to design a UI this clumsy. Starting a new email, for instance, required selecting a different tab for receiving email--the two most common things I do. And then there was the constant mode shifting. Clicking on a tab with words, getting a ribbon with vague images, having pull-down lists. It was sheer awful. It was like driving a car where the steering wheel was constantly changing shape and the petals for gas and brake shifting position.

    Then I realized that, as a touch screen UI, it wouldn't be that bad. That doesn't mean it was good. Touch screens have certain limitations--such as an inability to make pull-down menus work well--that force other, more clumsy techniques to be used. Windows 8 is carrying that madness still further, which is why I'm lobbying at work not to upgrade.

    What Microsoft's UI teams fail to realize is that differing UIs for keyboard/mouse v. touch devices is actually a good thing. They not only allow each UI to be optimized, the very fact that they're so different makes shifting between them easy. That's why none of us have any trouble shifting between a car (steering wheel) and bike (handlebars). Not understanding that basic point has been Microsoft's crucial mistake.

    Apple's making a similar mistake, although on a smaller scale. When it comes to storing documents, an iPad gives up versatility for simplicity. Users don't have to save documents and, indeed, often can't choose or not choose to save them. Apple's stupid and still unconfessed blunder with Save As in Lion is an attempt to impose on OS X users the simplicity of an iOS UI while depriving them of versatility. And since many of us have been taking advantage of that versatility for years or even decades, it ticks us off to be treated like twits. That difference is built into our work flow. We use the fact that changes are not saved (in the older and better scheme) until we consciously save them as a way to try out new ideas. Apple, in its folly, has taken that ability away from us.

    And in a very real sense, Apple's blunder with Save As illustrates that it is as capable as Microsoft of mistakenly merging two very different ways of working. A mindless autosave on iOS makes some sense. In a touch UI, manually saving is too clumsy. But in OS X, all I need do is develop a Cmd-S reflex to save regularly. I don't need Apple to do for me something I can do--or more importantly not do--for myself.

    In addition, Apple seems guilty of a bad case of NIH--not invented here. I've got numerous third-party apps (InDesign, Scrivener etc) that do a backup autosave every few seconds. Then if the app crashes or my power goes out, I get the option of going with my last formally saved version or the last autosaved version. Apple deprives me of that choice.

    The same is true of versions. Scrivener does versioning right with its Snapshot feature. I can save a version with a description of what it means. Apple's scheme just mindless saves a version from time to time without explaining what each version is. Apple's versioning seems designed of, by, and for programming geeks and no one else.

    And, quite frankly, after the Save As and Versioning fiascos, I not longer trust Apple to get their UI changes right. Their 'we know it all' attitude seems to be growing even faster than the value of their stocks. That is not good. Apple needs to listen and at least give us the option of choosing to stay with the more versatile Save As scheme. Apple is just a little way down the mad path that Microsoft is racing down. But it is making the same mistakes. There are critical ways that touch/tablet OSs need to remain different from mouse/laptop UIs.

  1. Charles Martin

    MacNN Editor

    Joined: 08-04-01

    I agree with most of Inkling's comment except for the "Save As/Versioning" part. This was not a UI change I had to "learn to like" but rather one I embraced from the start, as I often use older documents as templates, and (previously) had to keep dozens of revision versions around saved by hand for clients who changed their minds frequently. Lion's system was a godsend for my workflow and I'm disappointed that they watered it down in ML, luckily they have not changed it so much that I can't use it but I definitely preferred the default locking (after a user-set period of inactivity on a document).

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