SAN FRANCISCO--The 365 in Microsoft's new Office 365 may not represent the number of different versions, but there sure are a lot of different options for the new subscription Office suite.
Small businesses, those with 25 or fewer employees, have it simplest, with a $6 per worker per month option that includes Office Web Apps, along with hosted versions of Exchange and SharePoint. Larger businesses can choose from products anywhere from $2 to $27 per person per month. At the low-end, businesses get hosted e-mail, while for $4 a month they can also get SharePoint.
A version comparable to the $6 small-business plan will cost larger outfits $16 per month per employee. The options that include the traditional desktop Office suite, in addition to the slimmed down Office Web Apps, start at $24 per worker per month.
For options that include desktop Office, businesses can allow workers to install the suite on up to five machines--including their home PCs. The service will check around every 60 days to make sure a subscription is current; if it isn't, Office will shrink its features to a "limited functionality" that basically includes viewing, but not editing capabilities.
Microsoft is touting the choices as one of its key advantages over rival Google Docs.
"The key to our approach is that we don't think it is a 'one size fit all' (market)," Senior Vice President Chris Capossela said in an interview. Starbucks, for example, he said can offer a low-end version to its store workers that aren't at a PC, while giving the higher end options to those at headquarters.
"We find that by having a variety of offers, we're actually able to give customers the choice they need to pick the right technology for the different workers in their company."
Google, for its part, really has two main options--the free consumer versions of Gmail and Google Docs and a paid version, known as Google Apps, for which it charges $50 per worker per year. Both companies also have options for the education and nonprofit market.
Perhaps the good news is that workers won't really have to worry about the myriad options until next year. The company said that the final version will come sometime next year, but Capossela declined to be more specific. … Read more