I’ve been asking myself this question lately, because Microsoft’s business strategy has turned positively creepy.
To encourage people to move to its new subscription model, Office 365, Microsoft changed the licensing on Office 2013 to tie each copy of Office to a specific piece of hardware. In other words, if you install Office on your laptop today, and tomorrow the laptop is stolen, you not only have to buy a new laptop, you have to pay full price for a new copy of Office to install on it. Seriously. Read more about Microsoft’s new Office license policy over at PC World.
Now, I run a one-woman shop, so the cost of a year of Office 365 for me would be less than what I paid for Office 2011, but here’s the catch. I held onto Office 2004 until late last year because I was using an older Mac and because Office 2008 did not support macros, which I use frequently. So I used one copy of Microsoft Word for about seven years before I had to pay again. In the subscription model, there’s no way for the customer to do that.
Which isn’t to say I’m opposed to the subscription model. Adobe has also moved to that model, and for enterprise environments, where it’s useful to keep everyone on the same software version, it makes sense. But continually paying for a piece of software is not the best option for most individuals and small businesses.
The first problem I see with Office 365 is that Microsoft is trying to offer everything: web hosting, e-mail, cloud storage, calendar… These are services I currently get from three different providers. I am going to have to hear some stellar recommendations from ecstatically thrilled customers before I’ll be willing to trust all the operations of my business to one other company. Probably not going to happen.
Another reason I’m put off by the Office 365 model is that Microsoft is positioning it as “buy all these services from us and then, as a bonus, we’ll throw in the Office apps.” But really, all people need are the apps. Anyone in business already has all those other services. So the only people for whom 365 is really a help are those starting new businesses.
But what if you’re not running a business, as such? What if you’re a writer who hasn’t given up the day job, and you just want a version of Microsoft Word to use at home? Office 365 Home Premium is $10 a month for up to five devices. But the Small Business version is $6 per user per month. If you’re single, you might want to declare yourself a “small business” for Microsoft purposes.
The further down the rabbit hole we go, however, the stranger things get:
“You cannot migrate between an Office 365 Small Business plan and an Office 365 Enterprise plan. In order to change from a Small Business plan to an Enterprise plan or vice versa, you must first cancel your account with the plan you currently have, and then sign up for a different one.”—Microsoft
So if you did use 365 to run your one-person company, and if it became wildly successful and you launched your own multimedia empire and hired fifty people, you’d have to start over again. That’s just nutty.
I used to advise people to use Microsoft Word for their manuscripts because that’s what publishers expect. But if you are self-publishing, it doesn’t really matter. There are plenty of great alternatives to Office. They don’t have quite the same polish, but they produce acceptable results, and can save your manuscript into Word’s .doc format for submission to your publisher or printer.
Microsoft’s power base has always been the enterprise market. It seems to me that the subscription model could entrench that base further, but it may drive away individuals and small businesses.