Microsoft has announced the availability of Office 365 for consumers, which features the company's updated office suite in addition to access to certain cloud services that also includes additional storage space on SkyDrive, its cloud based storage service.
The Office 365 Home Premium service includes Office applications - Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, Outlook, Publisher and Access, 20 GB of SkyDrive cloud storage, and future updates. What's interesting is that the office suite is now available in a subscription based model, where users can pay an annual or monthly charge, and get a license to use the product across five PCs or Macs and five mobile devices (major Office apps are only available for Windows Phone and some Symbian devices, at the moment). This essentially means that after subscribing to the Office 365 service, a user can install the office suite on five PCs or Macs. The user will also be able to create and edit documents via Microsoft's web-apps for the office suite, and sync documents in the cloud. In India, the Office suite is available for purchase at an annual subscription of Rs. 4,199. Microsoft is also offering a 30 day free trial to users, although they'll have to submit their Credit Card details to the company, at the time of signing-up, and will have to manually cancel their subscription before the trial expires.
The Microsoft Office website also mentions a monthly subscription price of Rs. 420, which amounts to Rs 5,020, annually. However, executives at Microsoft India informed that even if a customer chooses the monthly option, it's required that he commits to pay for one year. We were able to sign-up for the free trial, and after selecting the monthly payment option, were informed that we'd be charged once the trial expires.
We noticed that after downloading the Office set-up files (on a Windows 8 PC), the installer quickly installs application shortcuts, and allows users to start using the application they desire, while pushing other set-up files in the background. We did encounter some minor hiccups while working within an app, while the installation was in progress.
Microsoft also announced that it will now deliver many new features and services to the cloud first, changing the company's traditional three-year release cycle. It mentioned that new features and services will stream to subscribers as soon as they're ready, eliminating the hassles of updating and keeping subscribers always up-to-date.
Microsoft has also introduced Office apps with this release, offering third-party apps, essentially plugins that extend the functionality of the program, within the office suite.For example, an app allows users to open and convert PDF documents to Microsoft Word files. Microsoft declined to share the number of Indian app developers working with the company for this app store but said that they were indeed working with some partners. According to a report by ReadWriteWeb, the app store offers 200 such apps, at the moment.
Besides, Office365 for consumers, Microsoft has also announced the availability of the updated FPP(Full Package Product) version of its traditional Office suite for consumers - Office Home and Student 2013. The Microsoft website has some details on the pricing - The Office Home and Student 2013 suite is available for Rs. 5,499, Office Home & Business 2013 for Rs 13,499 and Office Professional 2013 is available at a price of Rs. 24,999.