Microsoft launches Office 365 Home Premium to take on Google Apps

Infotech Lead America: Microsoft has launched Office 365 Home Premium to take on Google Apps.

Office 365 Home Premium, a cloud service, is priced at $99.99 for an annual subscription. Google Apps is available for $50 per user per year.

The new offering includes the latest and most complete set of Office applications; works across up to five devices, including Windows tablets, PCs and Macs; and comes with extra SkyDrive storage and Skype calling.

“Today’s launch of Office 365 Home Premium marks the next big step in Microsoft’s transformation to a devices and services business,” said Steve Ballmer, CEO of Microsoft.

The new Office is designed to counter the growing popularity of Google Apps, a collection of online-only, Office-style applications Google provides free for home users and sells to businesses for $50 per user per year.

Microsoft is hoping its move into online services, alongside its new Surface tablets, pushes it back into the forefront of mobile computing, which has been led by Google’s Android software and Apple’s combination of slick hardware and apps.

Microsoft estimates that 1 billion people worldwide use some part of Office and the unit that produces Office is Microsoft’s most profitable, edging out the flagship Windows division for the last few years. It now accounts for more than half of Microsoft’s overall profit.

Sales dipped last quarter as consumers held off in anticipation of the new Office, but analysts expects sales to ramp up again this quarter.

Microsoft says it will now deliver many new features and services to the cloud first, transforming the company’s traditional three-year release cycle. 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.

“This is a major leap forward,” said Kurt DelBene, president of the Microsoft Office Division. “People’s needs change rapidly, and Office 365 Home Premium will change with them.”

Simultaneously, Microsoft released Office 365 University for college or university students, faculty and staff at a price of $79.99 for a four-year subscription.

Globally, the company also released updated versions of the traditional Office suite: Office Home and Student 2013, Office Home and Business 2013 and Office Professional 2013. Office 365 for businesses will be released globally with new capabilities on Feb. 27.

In a recent global survey, nearly 60 percent of people said they don’t have the time to do the things they want to do, and more than 80 percent said they could save one or more hours a day if they were better organized. Office 365 Home Premium is designed to help people be more productive from virtually anywhere and find the flexibility to do the things they want.

To help people find more time to do the things they want, Microsoft is introducing Time to 365, a new crowd-sourced website where people can find and share tips, tricks, ideas and inspiration from around the world.

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