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Office for Rent

It’s now making the big jump to modernize its business by fielding Office 365 Home Premium subscriptions

Microsoft Tuesday released its late-to-the-party touch-enabled Office-as-a-Subscription for consumers nearly seven years after Google started flogging its "good enough" Google apps. The business version follows late next month.

Of course, Microsoft dragged its feet to protect its second-largest money maker as long as it could. As a result it made billions of dollars, which is more than Google can say.

It's now making the big jump to modernize its business by fielding Office 365 Home Premium subscriptions expecting that its vast universe of a billion-something Office users will eventually adopt the stuff even if it takes 10 years. This fundamental shift is supposed to be a step in Microsoft's evolution into a devices and services firm, according to CEO Steve Ballmer.

The widgetry on offer is downloadable and locally installable and can be used on up to five devices. It will give the subscriber 20GB of cloud storage and 60 free minutes of Skype a month.

It's not Microsoft-hosted but it can be managed in the cloud. A document saved in Word or Excel is saved locally and on Microsoft's SkyDrive simultaneously. Microsoft will also stream a copy of Office on Demand to a borrowed Windows 7 or 8 machine box and subscribers can save their work back to the cloud. When finished the on-demand copy of Office - poof - disappears.

Office 365's Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, Publisher, Access and OneNote programs will work on Windows tablets, PCs and Macs at a cost of $99.99 a year - but they won't work on the vastly popular Apple and Android tablets or smartphones. That kind of more competitive product doesn't exist yet and may never although such a thing has been rumored.

A University edition for students, faculty and staff will cost $79.99 for a four-year subscription, renewable for another four years for those who go to grad school. It's good for two devices.

People buying Office along with a new computer will also pay $79.99 for an annual subscription to Office 365.

Subscription accounts will automatically get Microsoft's Office updates and new features every three months. Folks who opt to buy a standalone copy of the new perpetually licensed Office 2013 for $139.99 and up and install it on their PCs won't have that update privilege. There's no Office on Demand or simultaneous saving to the hard drive and the cloud although Office 2013 users can save to SkyDrive.

Microsoft argues that Office 365 is a better deal than the $400 one-device Office 2013 Pro especially for families with multiple machines.

More Stories By Maureen O'Gara

Maureen O'Gara the most read technology reporter for the past 20 years, is the Cloud Computing and Virtualization News Desk editor of SYS-CON Media. She is the publisher of famous "Billygrams" and the editor-in-chief of "Client/Server News" for more than a decade. One of the most respected technology reporters in the business, Maureen can be reached by email at maureen(at)sys-con.com or paperboy(at)g2news.com, and by phone at 516 759-7025. Twitter: @MaureenOGara

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