Nov 262012

Steve Ballmer is confident that 2013 will be “momentous” for Microsoft.  One thing he’s hanging his hat on is the fact that customers will pay for subscriptions to the Office Suite. If successful, this will pave the way for smaller companies to follow suit.

Microsoft has revealed a plan to offer Office as a subscription to smaller companies. While this is often how larger conglomerates operate, small businesses don’t generally subscribe to software. However, they’re finding out that purchasing that pretty box of CDs from their local Staples isn’t as user friendly as it used to be.  If something goes wrong, and you didn’t register your new purchase properly, you may be on the hook for a whole new $379 package.

Now with the subscription model, for $100 a year, you can run up to 5 computers on Office. This comes with many bells and whistles, including Skype and tech support. Considering most businesses, even smaller ones, purchase their software up front, and then upgrade every 3-5 years, this would work out to basically the same cost. However, there’s a catch that has many companies considering Linux and Apple.

If you don’t keep up with your subscription, your entire office loses Office. So you’re putting every piece of your business, your bread and butter, on a program that can be yanked out from under you at any time.

Microsoft is also making it more difficult to buy your software the old way. What used to cost $130 and run on up to 3 computers, Microsoft Home Edition, is now $140 per computer. No more sharing. So even people running Office on their home computers will be on the hook for $8.99 a month or $99.99 a year.

Small businesses are the one’s who are getting more of the shaft. This $100-$150 per year is per employee. Microsoft says that the employee is allowed up to 5 computers per subscription but come on.

When’s the last time you needed 5 computers to do your job? Considering most small businesses are getting hit with higher insurance rates and taxes, this could be the straw that breaks many camels’ backs. Would you want the decision of whether to hire or fire you depend on how much you cost the company to sit at your desk? That’s usually where they want you to be chained up, and now they’re going to second guess that decision.

As many have done in the past, companies are used to upgrading only when necessary. However, this could be the last time that policy pays off. While most are probably up to the Office 2010 by now, it may be their final upgrade.

This means endless patches and compatibility downloads for struggling IT departments. The more extras needed to make a basic program work, the more chance for disaster. And who’s to say Microsoft will continue to offer these patches and compatibility downloads. If they’re willing to dangle this software carrot in front of us for a monthly fee like the mob, are they really above choking off our ability to even use the programs we bought in the past?

This experiment that Microsoft is conducting, before the release of their new programs in 2013, may be the chance for consumers to fight back. While we’re used to paying a monthly subscription for things like cable and internet, we understand that comes with a give and take from the providers.

They have to keep that internet flowing through our Fiber Optic cables every month, so naturally we keep paying. But what does Microsoft actually do on a monthly basis for this $8.99 per person? Skype and SkyDrive are cool, but how many small businesses actually use them? It seems Microsoft may have a mutiny on their hands, and it’s been a long time coming.

Creative Commons image source 

About the Author:
Serge is the technical co-founder at Edictive, an online film software company who follows with interest Microsoft’s services and software.

  • JasonB

    I don’t think this a good move for MS but I don’t think its going to move any business to Linux. There might be a few that use more MAC, I think it opens the door for web based office suites or free/cheaper office suites.

    You can get a few GB free from skydrive and use the web version of office.

    • BlackWoods

      Agree on that, bad move from Microsoft.
      People won’t move away but will not look on Microsoft the same way again.
      Microsoft needs to stop their forcing and lean towards a more “good guy” approach.