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Why can't you buy individual Office programs?

Office Watch reader, Meredith M. asks a question we’ve heard many times before.  Why can’t you buy individual Office programs instead of paying for an Office bundle with programs you don’t need?

“My issue: I need ONLY Word, Excel and Access–but I NEED them.
I know that I cannot buy them separately but does anyone else want to? Has this issue ever been raised with Microsoft? ”   – Meredith M.

These days individual Office 2019 programs aren’t sold retail. There’s no Word 2019, Excel 2019, Access 2019 etc. for sale in stores or online.

Microsoft has been asked about this over many years, as long as there’s been Microsoft Office!  What’s changed over time is that individual Office programs were once available, not any more.

Office bundles are now the only retail way to buy Office programs.  Either Office 2019 perpetual licence or Office 365 annual payments.

For Microsoft, it’s not worth their time and cost to test, produce and market individual Office products.  There more money to be made selling large-volume bundles even if it includes programs people don’t regularly use.

Office bundles make sense because everyone’s needs are different.  Few people regularly use all the Office programs, most run different combinations of what’s available. No sane company would try to supply so many different bundles.  It’s cheaper for everyone to have a limited selection of combined packages.

Microsoft cleverly manages those Office bundle choices to maximize their profits. The obvious example is the $100 higher price for the Home & Business choice just to include Outlook 2019.  And another $190 extra to add Access and Publisher (Office 2019 Professional).

Volume Licensing

The situation is a little different with Microsoft Volume Licensing.  We did a quick look at the many and confusing volume options available to organizations.

Generally speaking, once you need more than three Office programs (out of Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook and Publisher) for the Office 2019 Standard bundle is better value. Choosing Word, Excel and Outlook 2019 costs US$226 each (“License/SoftwareAssurancePack OLP 1License NoLevel”) totaling $678 compared to Office 2019 Standard for $648.  The Office Standard bundle is a little cheaper and also includes PowerPoint and Publisher.

Office 2019 Professional Plus adds Access and Skype for Business.  If you need either of those programs then the bundle is cheaper than buying four individual programs. If we take Meredith’s example (Word, Excel and Access) then individual programs are cheaper in volume licencing.  The three individual programs cost a total $678 however to get Access you have to buy Office 2019 Professional Plus for $884.  Buying those three separate programs would be cheaper.

However, that’s for volume licensing for multiple users in an organization.

Organizations can control the install of Office to limit what’s put on work computers or merely hide the unwanted programs.  Individuals mostly just ignore the programs they don’t want or need.

Office retail options including Access

Meredith’s retail choices (for Word, Excel and Access) are

  • Office 365 Personal for about $70 a year. For one person running Office on up to 5 devices at any one time.
  • Office 2019 Professional is $440 for one perpetual licence on a single PC or Mac.

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