05 Feb 2013
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Microsoft Office 365: Yeah, that’s pretty neat

By Donovan Jackson

How does Microsoft make money? By selling operating system licenses, yes, and its Office productivity suite.

The rest of the company is, in comparison to these two divisions, pretty arb.

We’ve seen the launch of Windows 8, which made a lot of us scratch heads and wonder ‘why’; now, with Office 2013 rolling around, we got another opportunity to chuck a few eggs at Microsoft.

Except we can’t, really.

Microsoft showed up at our office with Zaid Alkadhi Business Group Lead of its Office division, a young Microsoft fellow called Tom, the watchful eye of Porter Novelli PR pro Bill Rundle and a large basket of croissants. Their mission: to impress the various members of the TechDay editorial team on how Office 2013 and it’s cloudy version, Office 365, work.

Features? Yes, there’s a lot of them. A heck of a lot; Alkadhi points out that the suite has over 9 000 functions, and ‘Even if you only use 5% of those, the 5% you use are probably unique to you.’ The new stuff includes impressive picture and video editing in MS Word, reminiscent of Photoshop or some other power scribbling package.

Outlook integrates clever stuff like voicemails that are automatically converted to text. Powerpoint 2013 delivers new and exciting ways to bore people to death with even less hassle for the presenter/torturer. Excel, always a spot of wizardry in the right hands, delivers the kind of functionality you might associate with an Access database or even a minor business intelligence package.

And this stuff is made almost ridiculously easy to use (admittedly, it was Alkadhi doing the using) with the ‘cleverness’ built into the programmes.

Nice features, but how much money d’ya want for that?

Were we impressed? Yessir. Would we buy?

Did we mention up front that this is where Microsoft makes the lion’s share of its cash? Um, yes, we did. Here’s the real good news. In its efforts to push you into the cloud and tie you into annualized (or monthly) subscriptions, Microsoft has made the ‘online’ version, Office 365, substantially less of a whack on the wallet than the ‘olde worlde’ boxed product solution.

We’re talking $165 per year AND you get to use it across 5 PCs and/or Macs in your home…plus on ‘selected devices’. Obviously that’s the pricing for consumers…Microsoft’s notoriously byzantine models will apply to corporations.

Devices? Yes, devices. Office 2013 is touchy feely and works on iPads and that tablet thing Microsoft itself recently introduced (but not yet in NZ). So that means if you have 5 people in your house, one with a Mac, one with a PC, one with an iPad, you get the idea, you can use Office 365 across all those devices.

Or you can hog the license to yourself and use it over your own multiple devices. Whatever.

Being Microsoft, some extras are bundled in – monthly Skype minutes and some SkyDrive capacity. But what should grab your attention is that the full version of Office 2013 Professional, sold on a DVD in a box, will set you back $859.00.

That’s a lot of cash for a household (and a lot for Micro$oft, too…)

Clearly, Microsoft is pushing the cloud, and hard. The 365 version does everything the ‘boxed’ one does, it installs on your machine, too, so it doesn’t work through a browser, and it delivers the usual advantages associated with cloud models.

The only drawback, if it can be called that, is that every year, you’re going to have to get your credit card ready and actually pay for your productivity software.

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