Bill Bennett


Office 2013: rent or buy?

When Office 2013 launches everyone can renting the software. This is something large companies have done for years.

Should you subscribe and pay an annual fee to use Microsoft Office or pay once for an old-style licence?

While we don’t have official New Zealand prices for either option yet, the US prices on Microsoft’s Office News blog gives a clue. For many, renting will make sense.

Office 2013 subscription

A low-end Office 365 Home Premium subscription costs US$100 a year – although strictly speaking the price is US$99.99, no-one here is fooled by psychological pricing.

A single subscription covers an entire household. At Chez Bennett that means three people. Microsoft allows a total of five devices at any time including PCs or Macs. If you buy a new machine, the subscription can move. I’m guessing here, the deal also includes Windows tablets – can anyone confirm this?

But wait, there’s more

To sweeten the pot, Microsoft will throw in extra SkyDrive cloud storage and 60 minutes of Skype calls each month. Microsoft promises the software will be kept up to date and “new capabilities will be added multiple times per year”.

For a family, or someone with a lot of devices, Office 365 Home Premium could make sense.

The small business version of Office 365 costs US$150, covers the same five devices and includes more cloud storage, a hosted public website and online video conferencing. Again, it could make sense.

Doing it the old way

A conventional version of Office Home and Student 2013 will cost US$140, Office Professional is US$400. The traditional software licences are for a single device and only allow 7GB of SkyDrive storage – which, experience says, is plenty for everyday Office documents.

So, if you have multiple devices, a wired family or a small business, renting makes sense. If you’re a single user with just one machine, a traditional licence works out cheaper in the long run but even then it depends on how long you plan to wait before upgrading.