Microsoft Launches Office 365 Home Premium Subscriptions for Consumers

Microsoft is betting that consumers will pay $10 a month for the new cloud-friendly version of Office. If brisk business adoption is any indication, Microsoft has reason to hope.

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"Home Premium" editions didn't die with Windows 7. Microsoft today revived the consumer-grade appellation by launching Office 365 Home Premium, the personal edition of its cloud-enabled productivity suite.

An Office 365 Home Premium subscription grants users access to the complete Office application suite across five Windows PCs (Windows 7 and higher) and Macs (OS X 10.5.8 or higher). Skype and 27GB of SkyDrive storage (7GB free, 20GB additional) are bundled into the package. Microsoft's software-as-a-service (SaaS) productivity offering is price at $99.99 per year or $9.99 on a per-month basis.

Office 365 Home Premium includes Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, Outlook, Publisher and Access. The software's cloud-aware capabilities allow for roaming profile settings and file sync and sharing functionality via SkyDrive. With Office on Demand, subscribers can stream full versions of Office applications to PCs that don't have Office installed.

In addition, free Office WebApps sync with your SkyDrive account, so you can access, view, edit and share your documents, photos and other files from any Internet-connected device running a supported browser.

Sticking to tradition, the company also floated a lower-cost version for students called Office 365 University. Aimed at college students and faculty, it costs $79.99 for a four-year subscription.

The Office brand is undergoing a transformation as Microsoft continues to transition from a provider of mainly on-premise and desktop software to a cloud service provider.

"Transforming from a software maker to a devices and services company requires us to make big, bold bets and push our business in new directions, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer wrote in a blog post. "We are incredibly well and uniquely positioned to delight our customers with stunning new Windows PCs, tablets and phones that light up with world-class entertainment, communications and productivity services," Ballmer wrote.

The company is betting that like a growing number of businesses, consumers will warm to the SaaS version for one of its most popular and enduring application suites. Ballmer has reason to be hopeful. Office 365 has gained significant traction among business users, according to the chief executive.

He revealed that "since we launched Office 365 for businesses only 18 months ago, one in five of our enterprise customers now has the service, up from one in seven a year ago. Smaller businesses are also choosing Office 365 at a rapid pace, with a 150 percent increase in the number of small and medium-size businesses using the service over the past 12 months."

To achieve the same momentum among consumers, Microsoft is hoping to reset the concept of release schedules.

"Microsoft also announced it will now deliver many new features and services to the cloud first, transforming the company's traditional three-year release cycle," blogged Ballmer. "Now, new features and services stream to subscribers as soon as they are ready, keeping subscribers always up to date while eliminating the hassles of upgrading."

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez is a contributor to eWEEK and the IT Business Edge Network, the network for technology professionals. Previously, he served as a managing editor for the network of...