New Office suite for consumers available now

It comes in two versions -- the subscription-based Office 365 Home Premium and the perpetually-licensed Office 2013

By , IDG News Service |  Enterprise Software

Microsoft will begin selling worldwide on Tuesday the new consumer version of the Office suite, making it available both via a subscription model and perpetual licenses.

Consumers have historically bought Office in the traditional way, which allows them to pay for the suite once and keep it forever, but Microsoft has made it clear it is partial to the subscription model, where licenses are renewed annually.

"We think the cloud is the future," said Oliver Roll, general manager of communications for the Microsoft Office Division.

The subscription version, called Office 365 Home Premium, will cost US$99.99 per household annually. The software is downloaded -- and later regularly updated -- from a Microsoft data center. The license lets the buyer install the suite on up to five Windows 7 and Windows 8 PCs or tablets, and Mac OS computers. Multiple people in the household can use the suite, each with his or her own account.

The perpetual license version, called Office Home & Student 2013, can be installed on only one Windows or Mac OS computer. It costs $139.99. By comparison, Office Home & Student 2010 costs $149.99 for one household, and includes the right to install the software on up to three PCs.

Both Office Home & Student 2013 and Office 365 Home Premium come with Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote.

However, Office 365 Home Premium includes other goodies, like 20GB of online storage in SkyDrive, 60 Skype world calling minutes per month, Publisher, Access and Outlook. Office Home Premium is available in 162 markets and 21 languages.

Microsoft is also announcing the availability of Office 365 University, which is for university students, faculty and staffers, and can be installed on up to two Windows or Mac OS computers for a $79.99 four-year subscription. It includes the same features and components as Office 365 Home Premium.

With the subscription model, Microsoft is moving away from the historical three-year release cycle of Office, and focusing instead on updating the suite regularly and pushing the changes down to users via the Internet.

"This is the new generation of Office, where it is a service first," Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer said back in July, when the company released the public beta of this new Office suite.

However, it should be noted that with Office 365 Home Premium most of the software still resides locally on users' machines. In that sense, it's not like its competitor Google Apps, whose applications are hosted on Google data centers and accessed by end users via browsers.

Microsoft does have a scaled-down version of Office that is web-hosted and accessed via browsers called Office Web Apps. Access to it is included as part of Office 365 Home Premium because it is part of SkyDrive.

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