A Poor Geek’s Impression of Office 365

When it was first announced that the next version of Microsoft Office would include a subscription-based option I was skeptical. I knew that I, for one, wouldn’t be buying into a product that I would have to pay for like a utility when I could just as easily buy the standalone version of the same product and own it forever. Why should I have to pay Microsoft $99 a year when I could just as easily install that copy of Office 2010 I have laying around or even something from the open source realm such as OpenOffice or LibreOffice?

Office 365 ≠ Office 2013

The first thing I had to overcome was the idea that Office 365 was the same product as Office 2013 with the exception that I was paying for one all at once and the other out of pocket. The difference between these two is that Office 365 is loaded with a number of benefits that 2013 lacks. What grabbed my attention was the three points below:

Multiple Installs

When I installed Office 2010 three years ago that one key was only valid on two machines but Office 2010 Home and Student edition allowed a user to install the product on three machines in the same home for non-commercial use. Although better techs than I have commented that even this is circumstantial depending on the version of the product and how it was acquired. Overall I’m assured that Microsoft Licensing is a hairy affair and it takes a genius to decipher it… and they don’t mean that nice Apple “genius” down at the mall.

Compare all THAT to a simply being able to install your Office 365 on up for five desktops/laptops and five devices (including Macs)! On the fly no less! That I can quickly remove a license from one machine and add it to another through a web portal is very impressive.

Skype Minutes

60 minutes each month on Skype is a nice touch but I’ll be honest I never looked at Skype and thought of it as my VOIP client. If I want to get my money’s worth out of this subscription I’m going to have to create a need for this. Perhaps I’ll make it my business number?

Additional SkyDrive Storage

I’m one of those tinfoil hat people, although after the Snowden affair I feel more justified, who doesn’t think that the cloud is the place where one would make a large trust investment. I use the cloud as a temporary storage solution to share and temporarily store data but all my data has a home on my own server. Still Microsoft throwing in an extra 20 GBs of storage gives me much more room to hold more files and I can afford to just leave copies of my most commonly accessed data on SkyDrive without worrying too much about how much free space I have left.

All that said I still wasn’t sold on Office 365 and promptly dug out my Office 2010 disk and began the install. I could just as easily live without the benefits that Office 365 offered and it might even save me some money in the long run because when I thought about it I would, like with the 60 Skype minutes, have to invent a need for the product I was getting and I couldn’t justify $99 a year especially for a product I didn’t use too often at home and could just as easily use an open source alternative. I’m also already paying $60 a year for another Microsoft service called Xbox Live and I don’t even use it often enough to justify the cost.

The reality is that as a single user all the benefits of Office 365 don’t save me any money in the long run: then my aunt paid me a visit. She had recently purchased a Sony VAIO and brought it over for me to downgrade Windows 8 to Windows 7 and as I was doing so she asked me if I would reinstall Microsoft Office which my uncle often used. Noting that the VAIO didn’t have Office preinstalled and there was no disk she could use I wondered what I would do. I settled on buying the year subscription to Office 365 and simply having her laptop be the first of my installs. Since that time I’ve installed Office on my desktop, laptop, Mac mini, and even a virtual machine. Further I’ve used up one of my device installs to get the Office 365 app on my iPhone and while I think Office on mobile has a long way to go I think it’s pretty cool that I can do this.

If you’re a single user who only needs Office on one or two machines you’ll have to weigh whether or not you’d go for the subscription but once you go over that Office 365 is a no brainier. It’s nice to be able to install the product on five machines, assign those licenses on the fly, have extra SkyDrive space, and have 60 minutes on Skype to use for whatever I need.