On Sunday, Microsoft Corporation revealed plans to offer a cheaper version of its popular Office suite of productivity tools. The current Office 365, a cloud-based program, will become available in a cheaper version called Office 365 Personal.
The new product will be otherwise similar to Office 365 Home and Office, which Microsoft released in 2010. Both products will work like the conventional Microsoft Office software, with Access, Excel, PowerPoint, and Word being available. The Office 365 tools just put those functions online where users can access them, and files anywhere.
Office 365 is now available only on Microsoft tablets, so iPad and Android fans were stuck looking for other options. It is not clear whether Office 365 Personal and 365 Home Premium, the newer name for Office 365 Home and Office, will soon be revised to work on other platforms.
Microsoft already offers some free online tools, Office Online for free. Office 365 Personal would fill a space between basic Office Online tools and Office 365 Home. Microsoft also offers one-time licenses for Office Home and Student licenses for $139.99.
Office 365 Personal will at a cost of $69.99 a year/$6.99 a month for access to the service on one PC and one mobile device. This cheaper version will only allow users to connect one computer and one mobile device. Office 365 Home allows the subscriber to connect up to five computers and five mobile devices.
A report by Reuters stated that Office 365 would be available for iPad and iPhone as soon as new Microsoft President Satya Nadella approved their release. John Case, Microsoft’s marketing chief hinted at some “pretty exciting plans” for Office and acknowledged there is interest in using Office on the iPad.
Microsoft Office tools remains the world standard for productivity software, with over one billion users spending over $25 billion dollars on them in that last fiscal year. Much of that revenue has come from larger organizations that tend to make bulk purchases. Microsoft has made less progress in reaching the growing number of small companies and highly mobile users.
There is reason to believe the mobile workforce, and the market for a mobile Office suite is huge. According to research firm Ovum, 57 percent of employees surveyed used a mobile device to access business information. Seventy percent of workers used a personal mobile device for work.
The Reuters article also noted that many young tech companies are turning their backs on Microsoft Office because of that platform restriction. There are other cloud-based apps for a variety of mobile devices. Microsoft will be able to compete for more of those app losers after it actually launches this new, cheaper software.
Apps from Google Haiku, Quip, Evernote, Prezi, and Paper have eaten into Office sales and use. Quip, for example, combines word processing and messaging. Artivest Holdings, a New York-based financial services startup, uses it with all but the most sensitive documents.
Google Docs is another popular cloud-based service. The free version of Google Docs allows users on any device to create word processing documents, drawings, forms, presentations, and spreadsheets.
In the next few months it will become clearer if the new, cheaper Office 365 software that Microsoft launches can take away some of the appeal of those competing apps and tools.
By Chester Davis