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With Office 2013, Microsoft is moving its most dominant product line to an attractive new subscription-based pricing and packaging model. Yes, you’ll be able to acquire Office 2013 the old-fashioned way. But the benefits and pricing of the subscription plans are so attractive you won’t want to.

What’s attractive, you ask? The Office 365 Home Premium subscription, which includes Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, Outlook, Publisher, and Access, SkyDrive with an additional 20 GB of storage, and 60 minutes of free Skype calls each month, will cost just $99.99 a year. This subscription comes with a new “household license,” meaning that you can install the PC applications on up to 5 PCs (or Macs) around your home. Yes, that’s right: Microsoft is explicitly supporting installing and using Office on up to 5 different users’ PCs.

Luddites will still be able to buy individual retail copies of three Office 2013 suites, or acquire the software that way with new PCs. But why would they? Office 2013 Home & Student will cost $139.99, can be installed on just one PC, and only comes with Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote.

Assuming you only need those applications, it would cost you about $700 to purchase five copies of this suite for your family. For that amount of money, you could subscribe to Office 365 Home Premium for a full 7 years and, during that time, benefit from all of the upgrades that occur, including whatever full new Office versions are released. Combined with the additional benefits of the subscription, it’s a no brainer.

So let’s examine the offerings in a bit more detail.

Office 365 Home Premium

This $99.99 per year subscription offering covers an entire household. It’s not tied to a single person, or account, and each person that uses the service and applications can sign in to their own Microsoft account with its custom online document store, settings sync, and more. You can use Office on up to 5 PCs (or Macs), and switch which devices are activated on the fly. PC-based subscribers get Office 2013 Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, Outlook, Access, and Publisher, while Mac users get Office:Mac (whatever the current version is).

Office 365 Home Premium subscriptions come with a number of benefits. The software installs are delivered via Click-to-Run, which takes just a few minutes. But more important, the software is always kept up-to-date, not just with bug and security fixes, but also with the latest new features and services: Microsoft says that it will add new capabilities to Office 2013 “multiple times per year,” as it would with any service. The days of monolithic software are over.

Additional benefits include 20 GB of additional SkyDrive-based storage (for a total of 27 GB), which I assume applies only to the account that signs up for the subscription, and not for all accounts that access the software installs from that subscription. (That is, the 20 GB of additional storage is for one account, not for up to five accounts.) You also get 60 minutes of Skype-based world calling per month. And you can access the Office on Demand service to temporarily stream any of the supported Office applications temporarily to any PC in the world (assuming it’s online).

Office 365 Small Business

This $149.99 per year subscription offering is licensed per user, but also covers up to 5 PCs and/or Macs. Aimed at small businesses with 1 to 10 employees, Office 365 Small Business utilizes Office 365 backend services—Exchange, SharePoint, and Lync Online—rather than the SkyDrive-based services used by the Home Premium subscription. So while you basically get all the benefits of the Home Premium subscription, there are additional benefits and features as well.

On the client front, Small Business subscribers gain access to the same Office 2013 applications as Home Premium—Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, Outlook, Access, and Publisher—but also get Lync and InfoPath, or, of course, Office:Mac.

In the cloud, you get a 25 GB Exchange Online mailbox with shared calendaring, contacts, scheduling, and task list, and 10 GB of SharePoint Online-based cloud storage for the organization with an addition 500 MB per user account. You can host online meetings with audio, video, screen sharing, and HD video conferencing using Lync Online, and can set up, build, and maintain a public-facing web site with custom domain for no additional fee.

Traditional Office 2013 suites

Not interested in a subscription offering? No worries: Microsoft will still provide traditional retail suites for Office 2013.

Office 2013 Home & Student

This offering is licensed for one PC and will cost $139.99. It includes the core Office applications only: Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote.

Office 2013 Home & Business

This offering is licensed for one PC and will cost $219.99. It includes Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, and Outlook 2013.

Office 2013 Professional

This offering is licensed for one PC and will cost $399.99. It includes Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, Outlook, Publisher, and Access 2013.

Final Thoughts

With Office 2013, Microsoft is embracing a brave new world of pricing and packaging, and it’s a win-win. For Microsoft, this version represents the ongoing, regular subscription fees it’s always desired. But it’s even better deal for consumers and small businesses: For a low monthly fee (a bit over $8 for consumers), you get the full power of Office 2013 with its cloud connectivity, regular updates, and personalization, and you get it on up to five PCs, which you can share between all of the people in your family. This isn’t just reasonable, it’s an incredible deal.