December 06, 2012, 1:47 PM — Although consumers and businesses are turning more often to Web-based software and mobile apps, many millions still depend on Microsoft Office to get their work done every day. The folks in Redmond want you to use Office wherever you goon your PC, your tablet, and your Windows Phone handset. To that end, Microsoft is pushing deep integration between its desktop applications and your data, stored on Microsoft servers.
Office 2013, the next edition of Microsofts flagship productivity suite, is available for business customers but wont go on sale to consumers until the first quarter of 2013. This review focuses on the desktop applications, which you'll be able to buy either on their own or as part of the cloud-connected Office 365 suite next year. We'll review Office 365 when it becomes available.
Both the Office 2013 and Office 365 packages provide online document storage and collaboration. The primary difference between the two? Office 365 is constantly updated, and it lets you run Office away from your main PC via an Office on Demand virtualization tool. Office 365 users get extra online storage and, for the Small Business option, add-ons such as shared calendars and HD videoconferencing.
In addition to the highly touted cloud features, the new Office desktop applications look sleeker and deliver several useful improvements.
Unfortunately, the suite also costs more. The $140 Office 2013 Home and Student version includes Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote. The $220 Home & Business edition adds Outlook, and the $400 Office 2013 Professional package throws in Publisher and Access. Not only are those prices a bit higher than for comparable versions of Office 2010, but they also cover just one installation; Home and Student 2010 allowed three, and previously Microsoft discounted multiple-license purchases of other editions.
If you need Office on only a single PC, an Office 365 subscription quickly costs more after a year or so. On the other hand, if you use Office on multiple PCs, youll find that Office 365 subscriptionswhich include five Office 2013 installations and start at $100 a yearare cheaper over several years. The $150 Office 365 Small Business Premium looks like the best deal for small companies. You'll have to do the math for your situation.