Questioning Office 365: Do I Need It?

Chris writes:

With the release of Office 365, I’m still a little confused. If I buy Office 365 Home Premium, it says I can install on up to five machines. This is great, but does that mean I can connect each machine to a different Microsoft (and SkyDrive) account?

If not, in my mind, this isn’t the way to go. I would want a different account to save to different SkyDrives for my wife and me.

Any thoughts?

Office 365My first thought is to remind you that you do not “buy” any Microsoft Office product. Normally you would buy some storage medium (DVD, etc.) and on it would be some software that you would be able to use under a license, the terms of which you will never read. That distinction is important when you contrast operating with software installed on your computer and having various parts of your system actually located elsewhere — as “in the cloud.” Office 365 is a subscription-based license. Unlike previous Office suites, it does not have a one-time fee — you just keep paying as long as you want to use it. This does not necessarily mean you will spend more money on 365. Your upgrade and usage habits will determine that. It is available in several variations including permanent, temporary, and Web apps. Check out Microsoft for details. Note that you get 60 minutes of Skype per month with a subscription. This is a clever way to promote the company’s new acquisition by bundling it with Office. There are more details in this video.

Microsoft Office 2013 Home and Student costs $139 as a one-time fee. Office 365 Home Premium costs $99/year. Special pricing is available for students and teachers, if you qualify.

My understanding is that the SkyDrive account is different from the 365 account. If you had an account before getting 365, you can keep using it the same way. Likewise, if you and your wife have separate SkyDrive accounts, nothing stops you from accessing either — provided you have the passwords. That is not a trivial consideration. You log on to 365 with a Microsoft ID. That is fair. You do not want strangers to have easy access to your private stuff. You will shortly develop the ability to enter the ID quickly without thinking because you will be asked for it several times — like whenever you go to a different app.

But as long as you are considering alternatives, why not consider all of them? There are several good alternatives to Microsoft Office, and several of them are free! Microsoft will have slicker graphics, but others have compatible functions. You can easily import or export files from alternatives like LibreOffice and OpenOffice to Microsoft. You can still store things on SkyDrive or other cloud-based storage. Another cloud-based alternative, of course, is Google Docs, but that is limited compared to the power of a complete suite.

I think these alternatives are important to consider because most people use only a fraction of the power available in Microsoft Office of any variety. It is an awesome product. I use it all the time and constantly find new things that I can do, but for the average person using an Office suite for average things, the alternatives are more than adequate.

Chris, you started your question by saying you are confused. Think about that for a moment. You are obviously a competent computer user, and you are confused. Why is that? Could it be a part of the marketing strategy rather than a failure on your part? Marketing is a highly developed art, and anything that happens in a major rollout is likely to be intentional. Therefore, breaking away from the hype and asking pertinent questions like you are doing is a good thing. Keep it up.

Article Written by

Chris has consistently expressed his convictions and visions outright, supplying practical information to targeted audiences: media agencies, business owners, technology consumers, software and hardware professionals, et al. He remains a passionate personality in the tech community-at-large. He's a geek.