Microsoft launched Office 365 in New Zealand earlier today.
Clearly the software giant intends to compete with Google Apps. But at NZ$9.25 for the basic plan, Microsoft’s software cost more than Google’s US$50 (NZ$60) annual charge. And many Google Apps users get by without paying a penny.
Microsoft understandably wants a return on the investment it made developing Office 365 and installing the hardware to run it. The company has performed badly recently and its desktop Office product line is a much-needed cash cow.
So is NZ$9.25 – or A$7.90 in Australia – the right price for the market?
Microsoft Office is better software
When it comes to functionality and ease of use, there’s a gulf between Office and Google Apps. Microsoft’s software is better. Google’s web apps have their place but they are undercooked for serious users.
My experience using the two is instructive. I switched to Google Apps for a fortnight as a test, but gave up before the first day was out. My productivity plummeted using Google Docs instead of Microsoft Word 2010. Google Docs doesn’t cut the mustard as a sensible tool for journalists.
In some ways Microsoft’s online Word meets my needs better than the desktop application. There’s less bloat, less to worry over, less unnecessary fannying about. Microsoft hasn’t removed anything I care about.
Office 365 even better for medium-sized companies
I work from home – sometimes on the run as a journalist – so the main advantage of Office 365 doesn’t help me. However a medium-sized business switching to the online software can cut servers and infrastructure. They’ll need fewer support staff. That’s a huge financial saving straight away. And it means fewer headaches.
Microsoft expects New Zealanders and Australians to pay a premium for Office 365 over the US$6 (NZ$7) monthly fee Americans pay. That’s annoying. Shrink-wrapped copies of Microsoft Office 2010 sell for a shade over NZ$300, that’s roughly three years of Office 365 subscriptions. On that basis the price seems reasonable. Google App fans will think otherwise.