updated 10:53 pm EDT, Thu March 27, 2014
Celebrates release of Office for iPad while boosting traffic
In a follow-up announcement after it took the wraps off its long-awaited Office for iPad app, Microsoft has announced that it will run a promotion on Friday in its own Microsoft retail stores offering free year-long Office 365 subscriptions to iPad owners. The Office for iPad app requires a Office 365 subscription in order to engage the editing and creation functions in the app -- without one, it will act only as a viewer and file manager for Office documents. The first 50 people to bring an iPad to a Microsoft retail outlet will get the free subscription, a $99 value.
Microsoft's Office 365 is both a suite of web versions of its popular Word, Excel, PowerPoint and other program but also increasingly a means to shift users away from "perpetual licenses" (a one-time price that did not include upgrades, but worked until incompatibility with newer equipment or obsolescence took over) and towards a "subscription model," where users pay continuously for uninterrupted access to the programs, but do get upgrades both minor and major rolled out automatically at no extra charge. Adobe has recently been pushing a similar model, though different in some aspects.
Like Adobe, Microsoft has tried to popularize the polarizing idea of "rental software" by offering frequent sales on the overall price. Users who would like to use Office for iPad and the other benefits of Office 365 but can't get to a Microsoft retail store (there are only 63 such stores in the entire world, with 58 in the US, three in Canada and two more elsewhere) can find discounted annual subscriptions through resellers such as Amazon or eBay, selling for as little as $70.
Critics of Office 365 complain that the subscription model is not price-effective: a user previously would buy a copy of Microsoft Office at the consumer price of $129 for three licenses (the "Home/Student Edition") and most likely hold onto it until new hardware or operating systems forced them to upgrade, usually several years later. Now, consumers are asked to pay $100 a year for a copy that is tied to a specific user (though it can be installed on up to five devices, and includes 21GB of OneDrive cloud storage).
Office 365 does include access to tools not found in the consumer-oriented Home and Student edition, and Microsoft (for now) continues to sell boxed software versions of Office for those who prefer it. Indeed, the company has promised Mac users a new version of the Office suite to be released later this year. In addition to providing an easy way for users to see if they like or can adapt to Office 365, the promotion will also encourage visitors to check out their local Microsoft retail store -- another endeavor of the Redmond giant that has struggled to find an audience.