Windows and Office. It’s a duo that has made up the core of Microsoft’s business since before I was born, and remains the cornerstone upon which the rest of the company is built. And so it has gone, for as long as I can remember: with each new version of Windows, a refreshed edition of Office to go along with it. 



This year, we’ve got Office 2013. We’ve obviously had some experience with it in Windows RT form, and I spent a fair amount of time using the Office 15 Consumer Preview last year (in fact, I wrote my Masters thesis in Word 2013 Preview). In the grand scheme of things, it’s a pretty major change, with the biggest probably being the move towards a subscription-based model, though you can still buy Office in a traditional retail boxed edition with a standalone license. There are four different options for the standalone version of Office 2013: Home & Student (Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, $139.99), Home & Business (adds Outlook, $219.99), Professional (adds Publisher and Access, $399.99), and a volume-channel only Professional Plus with InfoPath and Lync for large businesses. 



The interesting part is Office 365, which involves paying on a yearly basis for multi-device licensing and cloud storage. It’s worth clarifying the naming scheme here: Office 2013 refers to the latest version of the Office suite, while Office 365 refers to a subscription service that provides Office 2013 applications. Office 365 Home Premium and Office 365 University both come with the same set of programs (Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, Outlook, Publisher, Access) along with 20GB of SkyDrive storage, 60 Skype minutes, and multiple device installations (5 for 365HP, 2 for 365U). It’s a pretty sleek system, with all of Microsoft’s cloud services leveraged to provide a seamless experience. Obviously, this isn’t the first time we’re seeing cloud-based document storage and backup, but the SkyDrive integration in Office 365 is much deeper than we’ve seen in the past. 

Now, with a subscription model, pricing is obviously key. I think Home Premium’s yearly $99.99 fee is a bit ambitious, but the University edition at $79.99 for four years is actually a pretty great deal. The only downer with 365U is that it only has support for two device installs, as opposed to five with Home Premium, but that’s the price you pay for getting an 80% discount. A university ID is, naturally, required at the time of purchase. (Thank god that most of my friends are still undergrads.)

Office 2013 - Consumer Editions
Variants Office 365 Home Premium Office 365 University Office Home and Student 2013
Price $99.99 $79.99 $139.99
Subscription Time 1 year 4 years -
Device Installs 5 2 1
SkyDrive Storage Free + 20GB Free + 20GB Free (7GB)
Skype World Calling 60 mins 60 mins -
Office Programs Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, Outlook Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, Outlook Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote

Let’s focus on Home Premium for now, as it’s the version that we’re testing and also the most relevant consumer product in the entire Office 2013/365 lineup. At $99/year, it offers a lot of value if you’re planning on using it on 4-5 devices, but if you’re only putting it on one or two devices, that sounds a bit steep. If it were in the $50-80 per year range with two or three licenses included and additional device installs available for $10 each or so, that’d be much easier. This also eliminates the problem for users wanting to install it on more than 5 computers. As presently constituted, to get more than 5 device installs, you need to buy another Office 365 subscription using a different Microsoft ID. With a typical family of four, it’s not even that difficult to think of having more than 5 computers, even if my occupation makes my household collection of computers a bit of an exception. Basically, it’d be nice to see a bit more flexibility in the plan with regards to the number of licenses available, along with this being reflected in the pricing scheme. 


Setup is painless, with a simple executable (or .dmg for Mac installs) downloaded after creating or signing in with a Microsoft ID and entering your serial number. There is no DVD-based install, that has been retired in favor of purely digital distribution. The awesome thing here is that you can start using Office applications almost immediately, with many of the installation tasks being pushed to the background. Compared to the lengthy Office installs of old, this is a vast improvement. 

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  • N4g4rok - Friday, February 1, 2013 - link

    It's not that bad.

    If you use all if the applications that usually come with the Professional editions of office, then after 4 years, you've paid the same price for five installations of it as you would have for a single one. Plus, the subscription gives you access to an upgrade when the new version comes out. Which is likely to happen in 3 - 4 years. combine that with the free Skype minutes and extra Skydrive storage, and it isn't that bad a deal.
  • colonelpepper - Saturday, February 2, 2013 - link

    Actually it's pretty flippin terrible.

    I've been using office 2003 for 10 years... it works perfectly. Apart from aesthetics (which have gotten worse) there is no compelling reason for almost anyone to upgrade past 2003.

    Another fact: Almost nobody "uses all of the applications" that come with Office
    Another fact: The only way that microsoft can convince people to upgrade has been to implement backwards-INcompatible file formats with each successive iteration of Microsoft office.

    This push for subscription-based software which you don't own is COMPLETELY TERRIBLE for user rights. Nobody, absolutely NOBODY should be defending microsoft here... it is completely inexcusable (this push for subscription based Office).

    Download LibreOffice! There's the link. It costs nothing. It is free of spyware (unlike office). It does everything that will satisfy the needs of 99.9999999999% of all "office users".

    ...where is the LibreOffice review Anandtech???
    or is it corporate propaganda articles only these days?
  • cjl - Saturday, February 2, 2013 - link

    While I agree that the office rental is a pretty bad deal, MS has not implemented "backwards-INcompatible file formats with each successive iteration of office" (or anywhere close to it, really). The formats stayed constant up through 2003, through several iterations, and then they changed once in 2007 (but they retained the ability to save in backwards-compatible formats). Then, Office 2010 and now 2013 share the same file formats as 2007, so once again, there is no forced obsolescence. In addition, Office 2007 (and later) added significant features over the older versions, so there are plenty of reasons to switch aside from mere aesthetics.

    As for LibreOffice? I've tried it, and unfortunately, it lacks many features compared to MS Office. It works fine for basic users (and to be honest, if you're happy with the feature set of Office 2003, you are a basic user, and LibreOffice would probably be an upgrade as far as features are concerned), but if you use some of the more advanced features in Office, it isn't really a viable substitute.
  • N4g4rok - Saturday, February 2, 2013 - link

    When you say "subscription-based software which you don't own", i'm not entirely sure what your issue is. Ownership in all practicality is the same as buying the individual license. Yes, it's more like leasing than purchasing, but that isn't inherently a bad thing.

    "It is free of spyware (unlike office)"

    I'm not even sure what you're getting at there. It sounds a little paranoid, but the definition of spyware could be muddied to include the improvement program microsofts implements. There's an opt-out for that as well, so i don't know how your 'Spyware' accusation holds any ground.

    "Nobody, absolutely NOBODY should be defending microsoft here"

    Naturally, i don't agree. supporting microsoft does not immediately make you a shill or a throwaway in a debate about software companies. Microsoft isn't the evil company that some would claim they are.
  • Ant-Acid - Sunday, March 10, 2013 - link

    So I am a sucker for being in front even after 20 yrs of "renting" Office?

    To get the same apps (Word, Excel, Powerpoint, Onenote, Outlook, Access, And Publisher.) as a once off purchase for 1 PC is ~$550 here in Australia.
    Now multiply that by the 5 PC's that we each have in my house.
    That's $2750.
    Now divide that by $119 for Office 365 HP. That's ~23 years of "renting" and then I am starting to better off purchasing outright, and I don't have to find $2750 right now.

    The subscription is for the *current* version (read: free upgrades) as well.
  • tipoo - Friday, February 1, 2013 - link

    All that white is an eyesore.
  • steven75 - Sunday, February 3, 2013 - link

    You just don't get it, maaaan. He *designers* say everything should be endless white space. That's like, what the future is. Nothing with be distinguishable at a glance--just white space as far as the eye can see!
  • nalim - Friday, February 1, 2013 - link

    "It’s been six years since they debuted, so anyone that is still complaining about Ribbon UI should really get over it, especially now that Windows Explorer uses it as well."
    What a lame logic!
  • JediJeb - Sunday, February 3, 2013 - link

    Just because some people find the Ribbon to be lame does not make them lame themselves. Everyone has a different way of thinking, and to some the Ribbon is illogical at best.

    If everyone's thought process was exactly the same, there would only be one style of house, one style of automobile, one type of computer, one type of food, ect. What one finds stupid and useless another finds perfectly logical and useful. You like the Ribbon, some don't. Thinking everyone should is the lame logic here.
  • Arbie - Friday, February 1, 2013 - link

    Is this about you or about Office 365?

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