Office 2013 on sale

Office 2013 is now on sale – but should you bother?

Office 2013 is now officially on sale though it’s been available in trial versions and to TechNet/MSDN subscribers for some time.

Is it worth getting?

We’ve been using Office 2013 for a long time now and while it has some nice additions there’s nothing really compelling that would justify the cost of upgrading. Switching to an Office 2010 machine causes us no pain or envy at all.

Inline replies in Outlook is the only truly useful feature we like. Some other things like the Recommended Charts and PivotTable improvements make it easier for people to make use of those existing Excel features. Smart Guides are a great addition to PowerPoint.

Yes, there’s more integration with Skydrive and therefore with Office Web Applications but that was already available in Office 2010. The offline support for Skydrive is still not all it should be with Microsoft, yet again, assuming that everyone has a fast, cheap and reliable Internet connection.

The ribbon has not had the major revamp that some suggest. The ribbon has always had a minimized option which we’ve talked about since Office 2007 – all that’s changed in Office 2013 is making that feature more obvious and accessible. That’s good but hardly a major change. Anyone who takes the time to learn a shortcut can get the same result in Office 2007 or Office 2010.

While Microsoft added trivial eye-candy to Office 2013 (ie the ribbon background patterns) it continues to ignore the legitimate ongoing pests in their product. To name just three … the presumption that elements of a document (document, template, pictures etc) are stored in different fixed locations instead of the one folder for all, as is often the case. The lame and effectively unusable time zone views in Outlook and the persistent image icon when there’s no contact photo. I’m sure regular Office users could add their own gripes (tell us!).

There are touch interface features in Office 2013 for the few people who have the hardware. However the touch features are quite inadequate, mostly because they conflict or compete for screen space with the existing keyboard/mouse interface. Microsoft is trying to graft touch features onto software not intended for it – and it shows.

We’ve read some Office 2013 comments talking about the ‘big improvement’ in Office 2013. But frankly we can’t see it and nor can we see it after reading those glowing reports.

That’s not to say Office 2013 is bad – if you need an Office suite for a new computer and you can’t move your existing Office licence then an Office 2013 subscription is fine. However, as with the last few versions of Office, it’s hard to see enough compelling differences to justify the cost and trouble of upgrading.

It’s not the software – it’s the sale

Despite all the Microsoft hoopla, the main change in Office 2013 isn’t in the software – it’s in the way it is sold. That’s more important to Microsoft than customers.

You can buy Office 2013 in a traditional retail box but you’d be crazy to do it. As we’ve already warned, the retail package seems to be the same price but it gives you much less. The retail package can only be installed on ONE computer and once activated can’t be moved to another computer later. The price has effectively doubled or more.

Microsoft is heavily pushing the subscription model by making it much more flexible and economical than a straight purchase. If you assume that the annual subscription price doesn’t increase (and there’s no guarantee about that) then a subscription is the more economical route. From Microsoft’s point of view, subscriptions give it a more even cash flow and even more tightly link the customer with Microsoft and its services. That tighter link makes it harder for you to change to a rival and harder for rivals to enter the office suite market.

Buying by subscription also means a different installation system ‘Click to Run’ which is good despite Microsoft’s unneeded exaggerations. However this is the first truly large scale deployment of Click to Run and so many people would be rightly staying on the sidelines while others are the guinea pigs.

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