Use fewer than four, however, and Office 365 costs more on a per-license, per-year basis than a corresponding number of Home & Student perpetual licenses, even with Microsoft's price hike.
The same holds true for Office 365 Small Business Premium when compared to Office Home & Business 2013: Four is the magic number. Anything less and it's cheaper to equip each device used by a worker with Home & Business 2013.
The comparisons are not apples-to-apples, of course, because the Office 365 subscriptions come with bonuses, including Microsoft's promise to provide frequent upgrades, the additional storage space, Skype calling time (Home Premium), and shared calendars and video conferencing (Small Business Premium). The SKUs are hard to compare head-to-head as well, since Office 365 is a kitchen-sink edition, with applications absent from Home & Student, or even Home & Business.
(Only Office Professional 2013 includes the same set of applications as an Office 365 plan.)
But the numbers made analysts pause.
Osterman, for one. "For the average household, say with someone who does [office] work at home some of the time, this still looks like a premium model," Osterman said of Office 365's pricing. "I think Microsoft's going to be hard-pressed to sell this [to consumers]."
Miller gave Office 365 Small Business Premium a better shot at success, even though, like its consumer cousin, that subscription allows five installs of Office. "The [Office 365] Small Business sounds palatable, and I think many small businesses will adjust to the subscription concept, but for the consumer I'm not quite as convinced," said Miller. "I'm not necessarily convinced that consumers would actually use Office enough to justify the five licenses."
Consumers have also been historically uneasy about software-by-subscription, Miller said.
"Will users grow accustomed to subscriptions?" asked Hilwa of IDC. He wasn't sure.
There's something to their thinking. In mid-2008, Microsoft trotted out Equipt, a subscription bundle of Office Home and Student 2007, Microsoft's now-defunct OneCare antivirus product, and several then-for-free online services, including Hotmail. Microsoft priced an annual Equipt subscription at $70, or about $5.83 per month. Customers were allowed to install Office 2007 on as many as three PCs for that fee, resulting in a per-license, per-year cost over five years of between $23.33 (for all three licenses used) to $70 (for just one license activated).
Microsoft pulled the Equipt plug in April 2009, just nine months after launching the offer.