The latest incarnation, or rather incarnations, of Microsoft's flagship productivity suite were released on January 29, 2013. The plural reference is a nod toward both the web-based Office 365 version as well as the new Office 2013 desktop versions. Microsoft is offering pricing inducements aimed at encouraging users to subscribe to their software, although traditionalists can still purchase stand-alone licenses.
You'll soon hear much more about computing in the Cloud by way of Microsoft's massive #TimeTo365 campaign on Twitter and elsewhere. The web-based version of Office is Microsoft's answer to Google Docs, Zoho, and other online word processing and spreadsheet applications. Although Google Docs is free, and Zoho makes certain versions of its apps available for free, Microsoft is taking a different tact. For $99/year, home users will gain access to Office 365 online and will also able to install the desktop versions of Office on up to five PCs or Macs. In typical Microsoft form, there are Byzantine offerings and prices for businesses. For instance, Microsoft previously indicated that Office 365 Small Business Premium would offer ten desktop Office 2013 licenses for $149/year, but as of this writing that version isn't available in Microsoft's online store.
Keep in mind that you can also purchase the desktop offerings directly, at $139.99 for home and student use, $219.99 for Office 2013 Home and Business, or $399.99 for Office 2013 Professional, but only on a per-computer basis. Prior versions of Microsoft Office permitted users to install the software on two or three computers, but Office 2013 requires one license per computer. This is emblematic of Microsoft's carrot-and-stick approach: buy a subscription and lower your up-front costs, or in essence pay double for the desktop versions if you use two computers.
In short, Microsoft appears to have two goals in mind: migrate users to the Cloud and secure an ongoing, predictable revenue stream. By default, the desktop versions of Office 2013 save your documents to Microsoft's Skydrive offering. Fear not, as you can quickly decouple your documents from the Cloud if you wish. Although the online version of Office offers a subset of the features available in the desktop versions, Microsoft promises new features will appear every three months. This is a marked break from the past when new versions of Office would appear every three to four years.
AccountingWEB has been covering Excel 2013 since July 2012, and I've recently been incorporating mentions of Excel 2013 into my periodic Excel articles. In the coming weeks, look for articles that will get you up to speed on numerous new features in Excel 2013 as well as head-to-head comparisons between the desktop, online version, and previous versions of Microsoft Excel.
David H. Ringstrom, CPA heads up Accounting Advisors, Inc., an Atlanta-based software and database consulting firm providing training and consulting services nationwide. Contact David at[email protected] or follow him on Twitter. David speaks at conferences about Microsoft Excel, and presents webcasts for several CPE providers, including AccountingWEB partner CPE Link.