Microsoft announced that it is selling its Office software to consumers as an online subscription service for the first time. The company is hoping that by doing so, it will be able to expand the key franchise outside of laptop and desktop PCs.
“This is a fundamental shift in our business that began several years ago,” Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer wrote.
The revamped Office incorporates touch controls, just like Windows 8. Office 2013 also stores files automatically in Microsoft’s data centers, allowing for access to the same material on multiple devices.
Despite the push towards offering Office on smartphones and tablets, Office 2013 doesn’t include an option that works on Apple’s iOS or Google Android. Subscriptions for the new Office called 365 Home Premium will cost $100 per year, which includes online access on up to five Windows devices or Apple’s Mac computers.
Office will still be sold under a one-time licensing fee that allows the software to be installed on a single machine which will start at $140 and range up to $400. Individual Office programs such as Word, Excel and Outlook will be available for $109 apiece.
365 Home Premium subscribers receive 20 additional gigabytes of storage on Microsoft’s SkyDrive to supplement the 7 gigabytes that the company gives away to account holders for free. Subscribers also will get 60 minutes of free international calls on Microsoft’s Skype service for internet phone calls and video chats.
“Over time, the majority of the billion plus people using Office will be using the Office 365 service,” predicts Ballmer.
While Microsoft’s decision to reshape Office into an online service makes sense, Edward Jones analyst Josh Olson thinks customers may take a while to embrace the concept, particularly major companies that rely on Office the most. “This is a good innovation, but the uptake may be slow to begin because it is so different,” Olson said.