Microsoft Office 365 – should you get it?

The PC world is changing and Windows has finally caught up. For normal home users this has created a confusing situation. The main change is that you are now expected to subscribe to Office. It will cost you about $100 a year to get access to Office 365 on 5 home pc’s. For single users this is a dramatic increase in price.

The MS Office for Students option is still available, but it doesn’t include MS Outlook. This is a problem for many older users, but not for younger people who generally use gmail for their email anyhow.

How does Microsoft justify their price-point?

  • They include online storage and automatic backup for all your Office documents. Since dropbox is similarly priced (when you exceed their free storage), the price isn’t unreasonable. 1TB of online storage with OneDrive.
  • The include free landline skypecalls: 60 minutes of Skype calls each month to more than 40 countries across the world.

What’s included

  • One subscription can be installed on 5 laptops / pcs and 5 online appliances (tablet or smartphone)
  • Automatic upgrades of the software: Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, OneNote Publisher and Access.
  • Cell phone system requirements: Apple iPhone 4, 4S or 5 or Apple iPod® touch 5th generation with iOS 6.1 or later or Android 4.0 or later operating system required

However

If you’re on a budget, and in a single household, Office 365 is pretty expensive. The cheapest laptops are around $200 and if you expect to hold on to them for 4 years, access to Office costs twice as much as the laptop itself cost originally.

Some laptops come with a free year of Office 365, but then you are locked in. If you don’t subscribe, you can still access your documents, but you can’t edit them anymore.

It is unclear to me whether, if you don’t pay up, you will be able to import such documents into another office program (Google Drive, Libre Office, Open Office, Google Drive, iWorks) and edit them there.

Office Online

It looks like you will be able to access your documents and change them through Office Online for free, whether you have a 365 subscription or not. Since this is just about the same service as Google Drive offers, they’re unlikely to stop allowing this option. However, like all other online office suites, the editing options are limited.

Also, unlike Google Drive, there is not option to edit documents OFFLINE, if you don’t subscribe to Office 365.

Conclusion

As usual it depends. If you don’t already pay for online backups, and you use Microsoft Office at work, you may want to (and be able to) pay for Office 365. Within the online storage space their offer really isn’t that bad.

Personally I would probably not go for it right now, if I had to switch. There are free alternatives and I’m already on a Dropbox subscription.

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