Why renew Office 365?

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Microsoft doesn’t have to justify Office software renewals – just pretend to.

With the first anniversary of Office 365 coming up, CITEworld has managed to get under Microsoft’s skin with their article titled Microsoft hasn’t given consumers much reason to renew Office 365 .

The piece by Nancy Gohring suggests that there’s not been enough new and improved in Office 365 subscription software to justify paying Microsoft for another year of Office software use.

That kind of talk could not remain unanswered so a blog post obliquely titled Managing Updates for Office 365 ProPlus tries to make the case for changes over the last twelvemonth and future renewal.

It’s a hard case to make unless you ignore the details and do some fancy word play – which is exactly what Microsoft has done.

Yes – Microsoft has released Office software for iPhone and Android phones that’s available to Office 365 subscribers. However the software isn’t very good. Its buggy, lacking in basic features and can’t display helpful error messages. In the past Microsoft has loved to talk about ’round tripping’ – the ability of software like Office Web Apps to open documents and work around features that OWA doesn’t support. ‘Round tripping’ has disappeared from the Microsoft phrase book because their mobile applications completely lack it.

Automatic and seamless updating of Office software is always promoted as an absolute good since, in theory, it means bugs can be fixed in the background without customers bothering with patches and reboots. However the Office team ignores their far from impressive record in deploying Office updates and patches. In some cases the patch disables or changes a feature some customers rely upon. At least with patches you can decide if it might affect you badly, the background update system gives customers no choice.

Office Watch has been running since 1996 and in all those years we’ve had to report on broken, buggy and badly documented Office updates with tiresome regularity – year after year, version after version.

Yes, there’s an Office 2013 Service Pack in the near future – big deal. Service Packs are available to all Office 2013 users – rental or purchase. Office 365 subscribers aren’t getting anything special.

All Microsoft has to do it pay ‘lip service’ to complaints about a lack of ‘new’ in Office – because they know it’s a side issue.

A Happy Microsoft

Quietly, Microsoft is delighted with Office 365 takeup, but not for the reasons they say in public.

All this talk about ‘what has Microsoft done to deserve a renewal’ draws attention away from the real point – that Microsoft doesn’t have to do much, or anything, to get people and organizations to renew. Once you’re on the software rental path, it is hard to stop and switch to other software (even Office 2010 or 2007).

Most people and companies will let the renewal happen automatically with little or no thought. And that’s why Microsoft has moved to the rental system for Office, to make more money for less marketing and development effort.

The use of the term ‘subscription’ for the annual fee has been accepted unquestioningly by the media. Office 365 packages are software rental, but ‘subscription’ sounds more acceptable and the linguistic deception has worked a treat.

And there’s been almost no talk about the future rental charge for Office.  The assumption is that the current $100-ish price will continue for the current Home Premium package, but that’s highly unlikely.

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