January 29, 2013, 4:40 PM — Once upon a time, bright boxes of the latest Microsoft Office pleaded for your attention in big box stores. Now, as with music albums and best-selling books, Office is going the way of the download. With the debut of the new Office on Tuesday, Microsoft is pushing Office as a subscription service rather than as a physical product plucked from a shelf.
What this means is that there are even more versions and sub-versions of Office to choose from. Read on to cut through the cluttered branding so you can understand what each product is and does.
The new Office
The "new Office" is how Microsoft describes this year's release of a raft of products. The new Office encompasses Office 365, Office 2013, and more--bridging the gap between the software on your hard drive and your services and data in the cloud. Rather than leaving you dependent on Office software and docs that are tied to your PC and hard drive, Microsoft aims for you to have Office wherever you need it: at work, at home, on your PC, on your phone, and on your tablet, whether you're online or offline. To get this experience, you sign in with your Microsoft identity, which follows you wherever you use Office.
What you probably used to think of as Microsoft Office is now just the desktop software component--think Word, Excel, and PowerPoint and friends--of the new Office. Buy Office 2013 in a box, and all you'll get is a printed product key (only developing countries will get a disc in that box). You can either purchase Office 2013 local software alone or get it bundled along with an Office 365 subscription. Here's PCWorld's detailed review of Office 2013. If Office 2013 is all you want, you can get it three ways: