I've been an Xbox 360 owner for years, but I've never once purchased an Xbox Live Gold subscription. Know why? Because I don't play online multiplayer games, and I refuse to pay extra just so I can watch premium services like HBO Go and Netflix (which I'm already paying for, thank you very much). For that same $60, I could buy a Roku box and stream HD video to my heart's content.
Make no mistake, I love the Xbox, love the Kinect, love using it as a Media Center Extender. I just won't pay extra for privileges I can get elsewhere without an additional charge.
That said, Microsoft has put together a pretty nice little giveaway: a free year of Xbox Live Gold when you subscribe to Office 365. The latter costs $99.99 (per year), so if you typically pony up for a Gold subscription anyway, it's kind of like getting Office 365 for $40.
You may be shocked to hear this, given my aversion to all things subscription, but Office 365 is actually not a terrible deal -- if you have a big family and a lot of PCs and mobile devices.
That's because your $100 affords you five desktop licenses (PC and Mac) and five mobile licenses (for iPhone -- there's no native iPad version yet, but one must assume it's coming, and you can run the iPhone version on your tablet if need be). That works out to $20 per person per year, which is not a bad deal for such a robust product.
Yep, I said it: Office 365 is a robust product. In addition to local versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Publisher, Access, Outlook, and OneNote, you get Office on Demand: "streamed" (cloud-based) access to the first five of those apps. You also get 20GB of SkyDrive storage and 60 minutes of Skype calls per month.
Now, at the risk of inciting a Cheapskate-reader riot, there are plenty of ways to get all this (and more) without spending a dime. Kingsoft Office Free 2013, for example, provides very capable word processing, spreadsheet management, and presentation building. And you can easily rack up 20GB of cloud storage by leveraging freebie accounts from the likes of Box, Google Drive, SugarSync, and even Microsoft (which offers 7GB SkyDrive accounts at no charge).
Still, there's some appeal in Office 365's tight-knit integration and synchronization of apps and data; it's definitely a more user-friendly solution for non-tech-savvy families. And there are few freebie alternatives (good ones, anyway) to the likes of Publisher and Outlook. I still use the latter, and must admit the 2013 version is far and away the best yet.
I suspect I'll get an earful from readers who think this is a stinky deal, but I maintain that if you're already planning to buy Office 365 or Xbox Live Gold anyway, this is definitely the time to make your move. The offer is available through September 28, so you've got time to mull it over.
Bonus deal: It's tablet Wednesday! (I know: alliteration fail.) Today only, and while supplies last, Target has the Acer Iconia A200 10.1-inch Android tablet for $175 shipped (plus tax). That's the lowest price I've seen on a non-refurbished Iconia and a great deal period on such a big tablet. Specs include an Nvidia Tegra 2 processor, 8GB of expandable storage, a 2-megapixel camera, Bluetooth, and Android 3.0 (which can be upgraded to 4.0 at the very least). Be sure to read CNET's review before pulling the trigger.
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